Utah Bill Lets State Get Tougher on Air Pollution Laws

Feb 24, 2014

Utah House lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state-specific solutions to air pollution.

Republican Rep. Becky Edwards, R- North Salt Lake, has a bill to loosen a law that prevents state environmental rules from being stricter than federal ones. She says Utah knows how to clean up its air better than the federal government does.

“HB121 allows for local control to address our local needs,” says Edwards. “This is another example of how states are more effective and do things better than the federal one-size-fits all solutions.”

Edwards’ district includes the medical waste incinerator Stericycle. Some of her constituents want more monitoring of its toxic releases. But current law says regulators can’t impose more controls until they prove that federal law puts the environment and public health at risk.

Members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee point out that air-quality regulators have never put the existing system to the test. Democrat Larry Wiley represents West Valley City.

“I think we’ve got a Band-Aid approach here,” Wiley said during a committee hearing Friday. “I’m willing to give as much rope as you want. But I think you’re going choke yourself out -- not because of dirty air but because you guys can’t follow through with what you are supposed to be doing that’s within current statute.”

The idea of applying Utah solutions to state air-quality problems seems to have taken hold among Utah’s congressional leaders, too.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz addressed the State House of Representatives on Monday. He urged state lawmakers to look for answers beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I just don’t think they are going to be the panacea and the solution to all of our challenges there,” he said. “I just don’t.”

Committee members passed Edwards’ bill for full House consideration. And senators are mulling similar legislation by Salt Lake City Democrat Gene Davis.