air quality

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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:

winter air inversion
Erik Crossman - University of Utah

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality released its 2013 annual report today. The report highlights some of the DEQ’s main accomplishments and success stories from the past year.  DEQ Communication Director Donna Spangler says one of the most important was finalizing the state’s air quality plan.

Advocacy group Breath Utah is partnering with the Utah Division of Air Quality to monitor air quality in different parts of the valley and along the benches. They say the study will help the state better focus efforts to combat pollution. 

Kevin Hart is an environmental scientist for the Division of Air Quality.  He’s installing a pm2.5 monitor outside Fort Herriman Middle School in Riverton. He says the more of these devices that can be set up the better the state will understand how to approach air pollution. 

Dan Bammes

  The Utah Air Quality Board voted yesterday to add a supplement to the plan for controlling pollution from industrial sources.  Bryce Bird, the director of the Division of Air Quality, says it will help industry get going to comply with new state requirements.

The state legislature needs to act or step aside and empower cities to act to improve air quality. That’s the message in Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s annual State of the City Address, which he presented today at the University of Utah. 

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.

Utah State University/Utah Division of Air Quality

 When the air quality gets really bad in Utah’s valleys, residents are told to stay indoors.  But is our indoor air really any better?  A new study from Utah State University is helping to answer that question.

Environmental engineering professor Randy Martin says our indoor air is much cleaner than outdoors on cold inversion days.  He says a lot of the hazardous PM 2.5 particles tend to evaporate in the warmer indoor environment.  But he says we can also cause problems for ourselves inside.

Dan Bammes

  Activist groups are challenging the permit allowing the Holly-Frontier oil refinery in Woods Cross to expand its capacity.  

The Utah Division of Air Quality issued a permit last month allowing Holly-Frontier to more than double its refining capacity.  Work is already underway as the company prepares to install new equipment.

Envision Utah

  A new study by Envision Utah says 99-percent of Utahns are willing to do something personally to help improve air quality.  Envision CEO Robert Grow says respondents were willing to avoid idling, combine trips and even trade in older cars to make a contribution.  Grow says there’s enough civic commitment in Utah to have a real impact.

Air quality along the Wasatch front this week has reached levels above what the federal government deems safe, and doctors at Intermountain Medical Center say they are already hearing a lot of related health complaints from their patients.

Among those seeing a spike in patients is Denitza Blagev, pulmonary and critical care physician at Intermountain Medical Center. Common symptoms include chest tightness, chest burning, and shortness of breath.

Utah Office of Tourism

  Bad air is bad for business – that’s the message from a roundtable discussion at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Air quality on the Wasatch Front can be a problem for agencies trying to persuade businesses to come here.  That was among the the points discussed at Thursday’s meeting.  Mike O’Malley with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development says companies looking to relocate take air quality into consideration.

  The state of Utah missed a deadline a year ago to submit a plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for meeting new standards for the smallest particles in the air – the so-called PM 2.5 pollutants.  This plan includes new rules on industrial polluters and on wood burning in urban counties.  It also depends heavily on improvements in auto emissions as cleaner cars replace those now on the road.

Kathy Van Dame, who’s a leader of the group Breathe Utah and a member of the Air Quality Board, likes this plan much better than the one they rejected a year ago.

Dan Bammes

  The HollyFrontier oil refinery in Woods Cross has been given a green light from the Utah Division of Air Quality to triple its refining capacity – even as it’s promised to reduce pollution.  

The expansion will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment in the refinery as well as at least sixty new jobs.  But HollyFrontier spokesperson Mike Astin says there are still challenges to deal with from groups opposed to it.

Tim Brown / Creative Commons

Should you still go out for that run on days when Utah’s air quality is questionable?  A new website may be able to answer that question, based on your own health and exercise needs. 

The developers of the MyAir website made a presentation to the Utah Air Quality Board this week, explaining their system for evaluating the individual risk of exposure to air pollution.  It’s based on the user’s health and fitness level as well as on the air quality on any given day.

Brian Grimmett

Utahns concerned about air quality can now get real-time updates right on their smartphone with a new app called “Utah Air.” The app is a joint project between the Utah Division of Air Quality and students at Weber State University.

Brian Grimmett

 

North Salt Lake City residents will elect their leaders next week, and those running for office say that Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator has become a major issue in their campaigns. The company and the state Division of Air Quality are engaged in a legal battle over whether the incinerator exceeded permitted levels of pollutants in its emissions. Meanwhile, citizens are calling on city leaders to move the incinerator or shut it down. In the 2nd of our two part series we take a  look at North Salt Lake City’s options.

Utah Division of Air Quality

  Starting next week, the Utah Division of Air Quality will begin enforcing new rules on wood burning during winter inversions.  It's also changing its website, replacing the old red and yellow air quality alerts with a six-step system that's in use nationwide. Bryce Bird, the director of Utah's Division of Air Quality, sat down with KUER's Dan Bammes to talk about the changes.

Utah Governor's Office

Governor Gary Herbert has created a committee with dozens of high-profile people from around the state to look at solutions to Utah’s air quality problems, while critics were blasting a state plan meant to meet stricter federal pollution standards. 

Governor Gary Herbert says everything’s on the table as his new Clean Air Action Team begins its work.  It’s led by Dan Lofgren of Envision Utah and includes 39 members, ranging from the chairman of Intermountain Health Care to Dan McArthur, the mayor of St. George.

Oregon Department of Transportation

The Public Service Commission of Utah is changing a rule that will make it easier for businesses to install charging stations for electric vehicles.

Wikimedia Commons

Activist groups are planning to ask Utah’s state Air Quality Board to support a complete ban on wood burning for Utah's urban counties.

Kennecott Utah Copper

  A hearing is underway this afternoon in federal court on a challenge to Kennecott’s plan to expand the Bingham Canyon copper mine.  Representatives from Utah Moms for Clean Air, Wild Earth Guardians, the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment all say Kennecott can’t move ahead with its expansion without approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Doctor Brian Moench says that’s needed even though the Utah Division of Air Quality has already signed off on it.

Dan Bammes

  The public comment deadline has passed on Utah Department of Transportation’s proposal to build a freeway from Farmington to Hooper.  Critics of the West Davis Corridor say UDOT needs to back up and take another look.

Steve Erickson is with a group promoting another alternative, the so-called “Shared Solution.”  It would scrap the freeway and instead improve east-west routes across the county leading to FrontRunner and I-15.

Dan Bammes

Utah’s State Air Quality Board has given its preliminary approval to a new plan for meeting federal air quality regulations on the Wasatch Front.

"Most of the residents of the valley are going to be breathing clean air sooner than 2019, so that’s a good thing," Bill Reiss, a planner with the Utah Division of Air Quality, explained to the Board of Air Quality.

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.

winter air inversion
Erik Crossman - University of Utah

  The state of Utah missed a deadline last December for submitting a plan to federal authorities to reduce air pollution on the Wasatch Front.  But the public will get a look at a new draft plan in a couple of weeks.

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.

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