air pollution

Judy Fahys

  

  The Salt Lake Valley was choking with winter pollution as the Legislature convened in January. Lawmakers were compelled to step up to the challenge to clear the air.

Thousands of Utahns rallied for air pollution solutions outside the state Capitol the weekend before lawmakers settled in. No one could remember another time that so many people came together to demand a stop to the smog. Sara Baldwin Auck is an advocate for Utah Clean Energy.

Flickr Creative Commons

  A bill to reduce wood-stove soot in Utah’s high-pollution areas is headed to the Senate after receiving House approval Thursday. The bill would help fund programs to help people who rely on woodstoves alone to convert to cleaner home-heating alternatives.

Andrea Smardon

Small businesses now have access to funding that will help improve air quality. The UCAIR Air Assist program offers funds to small businesses to buy equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions. The first grant recipient is an auto body shop in Salt Lake City.

ACS Precision Finish is using about $15,000 of state money to upgrade from a solvent to a water-based paint system. Corey Kaggie, a painter in the shop, is dressed in a white protective body suit, goggles, and a face mask. She says the new paint certainly smells better.

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.”

Utah Climate Center

    

Skies have been smog-free in northern Utah for the past few days. Now the Utah Climate Center says we can breathe easy for at least another week.

Judy Fahys

    

A sea of people swarmed Utah’s Capitol steps and south lawn Saturday. Thousands gathered for the Clean Air, No Excuses rally just above winter smog blanketing the valley. Brian Moench, a co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the demonstrators they have a right to clean air.

“This is your state,” said Moench. “What goes on in the building behind us is your government. The air you breathe is largely what you make of it, either by ignoring it, making it worse by neglect or by fighting to make it better.”

Thousands of Utahns say they plan to join a rally at the State Capitol Saturday. They want Governor Gary Herbert and the Legislature to do something immediately about poor air quality.

Salt Lake City folk singer Tom Bennett wrote his song, Governor We Cannot Breathe, to be performed at tomorrow’s Clean Air, No Excuses Rally.

Utah Foundation Releases Report on Air Quality

Jan 23, 2014

A new report tries to cut through some of the confusion surrounding Utah’s air-pollution problems. Shawn Teigen says he stepped back to take an impartial look at one of Utah’s most important issues. He’s a research analyst for the non-partisan Utah Foundation. His report released Thursday notes pollution has not trended up -- or down -- over the past 15 years. He’s found that smoke from solid-fuels like wood and coal is an unexpectedly big problem. He’s also learned that federal clean-vehicle, clean-fuel standards called Tier 3 will go a long way to clean up the air.

Lawmakers Unveil Air Quality Bills

Jan 22, 2014
Judy Fahys

A bipartisan caucus of Utah House members has unveiled a package of air-pollution bills. They say the proposals will Utah’s air easier to breathe. The measures include incentives for consumers to buy cleaner snow-blowers and weed whackers. There is one bill that would ban medical waste incinerators in the state. Another proposal would allow the state to authorize environmental regulations that are more rigorous than federal laws.

Flickr Creative Commons

University of Utah graduate students are developing a video game app to help Utahns better understand the connection between their actions and the dirty air. 

Kerry Kelly is Associate Director of the University of Utah’s program for Air Quality, Health and Society. She says her role is to make sure this game is backed up by scientific evidence. But here’s one of the ideas they’re considering:

Kerry Kelly / University of Utah Air Quality, Health and Society Program

The University of Utah has awarded six researchers grants to study the consequences of regional air pollution.  The seed grants, which total $165,000, are the first to come out of a new cross-disciplinary program focused on air quality.  

Andrea Smardon

Utah’s air quality issues became evident early this winter, and state lawmakers are working on a number of bills to address the problem. Most of them are focused on getting Utah citizens to change their behavior.

Air pollution was reportedly a hot topic at the most recent Utah Republican House caucus. But Republican Representative Jim Nielson of Bountiful says it’s not a partisan issue, and lawmakers have been working together to address it.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

The Utah Department of Health is doing a public health assessment in the North Salt Lake neighborhood near Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator. State officials say they are focused primarily on investigating levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the soil.

Amid public concern about air pollution generated by Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator, two major hospital systems in Utah say they are reconsidering their processes for disposing of medical waste. Officials from University of Utah Health Sciences and Intermountain Healthcare say they are exploring their options, but are continuing to use Stericycle’s incinerator for the time being.

Andrea Smardon

As activists and community members step up the pressure to shut down a North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator, Stericycle officials are denying the company violated emissions limits or rigged stack test results. They are challenging a list of citations filed by Utah regulators against the company's incinerator. That means the beginning of a legal process that could take months.

Andrea Smardon

As angry residents continue to protest Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator and its toxic emissions, some local officials have been discussing the possibility of moving the plant to another location.

North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave met with Stericycle’s  Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs earlier this week. He says he thinks the incinerator should find another home outside the city, and that Stericycle may be open to that possibility.

Photo courtesy Foxboro residents

Republican State Senator Todd Weiler of Woods Cross says he’s filing a bill to ban medical waste incineration in Utah. The announcement comes after Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator allegedly exceeded its permitted levels of toxic pollutants and falsified its emissions tests. Nearby residents and environmental activists have called for the incinerator to be closed down. 

Andrea Smardon

Erin Brockovich and her team of environmental activists have made their presence known to North Salt Lake officials.  An investigator who works with Brockovich spoke to city councilors and the mayor Tuesday night, asking them to exert some local control and help protect citizens from the air pollution emitted by Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is turning her attention to North Salt Lake City. At the request of residents, Brockovich and her team have decided to conduct an independent investigation into air pollution violations by Stericycle and the company’s medical waste incinerator. Angry residents and activists are protesting in front of Stericycle Thursday evening demanding that Governor Gary Herbert shut it down.

Utah Clean Energy

Utah’s Public Service Commission is meeting at the Capitol this week to discuss options for improving air quality along the Wasatch Front through the use of alternative-energy vehicles.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature tasked the Public Service Commission to investigate how alternative-energy vehicles can improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. Kevin Emerson of Utah Clean Energy was at the first of this week’s hearings. He says electric vehicles are the best way to reduce emissions.

Andrea Smardon

Activist groups and North Salt Lake residents are planning another protest of Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator accused of violating pollution limits and falsifying emissions tests.  The event on August 15th is being planned after state regulators gave the company a second extension to decide if it will challenge the allegations against them.

arbyreed / Creative Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a settlement with Chevron. The company has agreed to pay a $384,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its refinery in Salt Lake City.

Utah regulators are trying to educate people on the dangers of ozone, an invisible gas produced by smog that doctors say taxes the lungs of even healthy people.

The press conference took place under clear blue skies at a park in Woods Cross, with children playing nearby. It seemed like a nice day, but Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird says ozone often goes overlooked because people can't see it.

The state’s Director of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) says there is a possibility the agency will revoke the permit of Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.  DAQ Director Bryce Bird met with concerned members of the community, and health and environmental advocates today (WED). They called on the agency to shut down the incinerator, which they say is an urgent public health threat.

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks Henderson

North Salt Lake residents are stepping up pressure to close a medical waste incinerator in their neighborhood. Environmental and health advocates are joining them in a protest outside Stericycle’s incinerator Tuesday evening, and representatives from the group will be meeting with the Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality to voice their concerns Wednesday morning. Among the protestors concerns is the use of a bypass stack which allows the company to release unfiltered, toxic pollutants like dioxin and mercury directly into the air.

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks Henderson

Environmental advocates and concerned residents will be holding a protest Tuesday evening at Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake. They want the incinerator – which emits dioxins and other toxic chemicals - shut down.

Protest organizer Bradley Angel is Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. He says Stericycle’s incinerator is a direct threat to the health of the families in the neighborhood.

Women who live in areas with polluted air are up to twice as likely to have an autistic child than those living in communities with cleaner air.  That’s according to a new national study from Harvard University published online in Environmental Health Perspectives. KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports on what this might mean for Utah - which has the highest autism rates in the country, and occasionally the worst air quality.

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