When the 2013 Utah Legislative session ended at midnight on Thursday, lawmakers had passed three bills aimed at improving air quality, but let four other bills expire without consideration.
More than 20 days of unhealthy air this winter made cleaning it up a touchstone issue in the legislative session. But only three of the seven air quality bills proposed are headed to Governor for his signature. Several bills sponsored by Democrats sought money and tax incentives for mass transit passes and would give Utah the ability to clean up its air beyond federal EPA standards. All of these were left to expire. But one bill sponsored by Democratic Representative Patrice Arent did pass both chambers. It would mandate that state agencies come up with their own plans to reduce pollution. Arent says she will continue to address air quality issues on the state’s economic development task force.
“We need to look at long term solutions. We are continuing on the road to do that. We started last year in passing legislation. We’re working on the issue this year. I passed legislation which I was thrilled to get through. So, we’re not disappointed,” said Arent.
Two other air quality bills sponsored by Republicans passed both chambers. One sponsored by Representative Jack Draxler would extend tax credits to those who purchase clean fuel vehicles or covert their current vehicles to run on fuels like propane or compressed natural gas. The other bill, sponsored by Senator Stuart Adams would provide loan incentives to dramatically increase the state’s CNG fueling infrastructure. Both bills were championed by Governor Gary Herbert. He says the state will continue to find ways to focus on improving poor air quality.
“The idea that we’re trying to get our fleets to use more compressed natural gas is going to be a significant benefit as we start burning cleaner fuels. Our Department of Environmental Quality is working with our point sources in industry and developing a pathway for each one of them to reduce emissions. So I think you’re going to see some significant benefits over the next twelve months with efforts that are ongoing,” said Herbert.
At the beginning of the session, lawmakers were considering budget cuts to the Division of Air Quality, but that funding was restored in included in the budget ultimately approved by the Legislature.