Utah will see bigger clean air benefits than anywhere else under new federal regulations that even have the support of some Republicans. Cars and trucks are responsible for more than half of Utah’s summer and winter smog. That’s why so many people are excited about the EPA’s new Tier 3 standard for cleaner cars and cleaner fuel. Bryce Bird is director of the state Division of Air Quality. He explains how it works.
“There’s two parts,” says Bird. “First is the cleaner vehicles. The second part is the cleaner fuels that both allow the new vehicles to operate as efficiently and cleanly as they can, but also clean up the existing vehicles so they have less emission so they have less emissions as they are driving down the road.”
The EPA estimates Tier 3 will do more good in northern Utah than any other place in the country. It will be like taking four of every five existing cars off the road by 2030. To meet the requirements new cars will cost around $130 more. Drivers will also pay another penny a gallon more at the pump for low-sulfur gas. Democratic Representative Patrice Arent is sponsoring a House-Senate resolution in support of Tier 3.
“Yes. It’s going to cost something,” she says. “But I think the public’s going to embrace this when they realize how much it’s going to clean up our air. It’s not going to solve all of our problems. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. But it’s such an important piece.”
While the regulations are advancing under a Democratic White House, Republican Representative Ed Redd of Logan says that doesn’t matter.
“I’ve never really considered this a partisan issue, because it’s – to me, it’s a science issue and it’s coming up with reasonable solutions,” he says. “And maybe different parties will have different types of solutions and different ways of approaching it. But I don’t hear a lot of people arguing that we should let the air quality get worse.”
Republican Governor Gary Herbert is talking with Utah’s five refineries about putting low-sulfur gas in Utah tanks even before EPA’s 2017 start date.