air quality

Tesoro Corporation

Environmental groups are suing the Utah Division of Air Quality hoping to stop an oil and gas refinery expansion the regulator approved in Salt Lake City.  The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment say the expansion would move the state further out of compliance with federal air quality standards.

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.

Utah Division of Air Quality

  In the winter, air pollution can stay trapped in the valleys of the Wasatch Front until the wind picks up and blows it away.  In the summer, ozone pollution can be a problem day after day even when the wind is blowing.  

Unlike particulates, which can build up for weeks in a winter inversion, new ozone is created every day by a reaction between tailpipe emissions and sunlight. Erik Crosman, a researcher in the University of Utah’s Atmosopheric Sciences program, says the wind doesn’t make much difference to pollution levels on a hot summer day.

Bob Nelson

State officials re-launched the Utah Clean Air Partnership or UCAIR today as a non-profit entity with a a new board of directors.  

Governor Gary Herbert gathered many new members of the UCAIR board in West Valley City on Tuesday to announce changes to the organization. Until now, UCAIR had been a state-run organization dedicated to improving the state’s air quality. Governor Herbert says reorganizing the day-to-day management of UCAIR was always a goal.

Governor Herbert declares May “Clean Air Month,” Utah hospitals rank high in stroke treatment, and Kennecott Utah Copper begins laying off workers.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert demonstrated three simple things Utahns can do to help lower harmful emissions as he kicked off Clean Air Month at a house across the street from the State Capitol today.

Governor Herbert says Utahns aren’t always aware of the simple ways we can help clean up the air but gave these three tips while declaring May Clean Air Month. One could update older fuel storage containers, use paints with low amounts of volatile organic compounds, and replace gas powered yard equipment with cleaner alternatives.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is now taking public comment on proposed new cleaner fuels and cars standards. Known as Tier 3 of the Clean Air Act Amendments, they’re designed to improve air quality and public health by reducing the sulfur content of gasoline and making cars more efficient. 

The Utah Tourism Office launches a new ad campaign, Utah gets its first non-profit health insurance cooperative, and state agencies begin creating air quality improvement plans.

Our recent series with RadioWest on Clearing the Air gets a thumbs up from this City Weekly story. Let us know what you thought about it.

Andrea Smardon

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. 

Andrea Smardon

Utah physicians declared a public health emergency in the middle of a particularly bad air pollution season this year, pointing to spikes in ER visits, respiratory and cardiovascular episodes, and even deaths.  Governor Gary Herbert declined to declare an emergency and says that some activists are exaggerating the problem. In the final story in our series of reports on Clearing the Air, KUER looks at what we know and don’t know about the health effects of Utah’s air pollution. 

With the last week of the Legislative session underway, lawmakers approved two bills in the Senate and House yesterday geared toward improving the region’s air quality.  

EPA

  The head of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality says she’s had a good experience working with the person picked to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency.  Gina McCarthy was head of E-P-A’s air quality division until President Obama tapped her for the top job this week.

Amanda Smith at  DEQ says she’s optimistic McCarthy will be able to work with the state on Utah’s unique problems, such as winter ozone in the Uintah Basin.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert along with legislators and government leaders are putting their support behind a bill that would help local and state agencies expand their fleets of Compressed Natural Gas vehicles.

The University of Utah is starting a new center to study air pollution and its impacts on health and society.  The U hosted a retreat Monday, bringing academics together to talk about what they have to contribute and how they can collaborate. 

The Utah House passed a bill today that would provide tax credits to those who purchase clean fuel vehicles over the next five years. 

Republican Representative Jack Draxler’s bill, HB 96, would change the current tax incentive program by eliminating credits for gasoline and propane vehicles.  The Logan lawmaker hopes his legislation would motivate people to buy cars and trucks that produce minimal or zero emissions.

The Utah Legislature looks at a bill that would delay the start date for Utah’s guest worker program, the so-called “Zion Curtain” may be coming down, and KUER’s Dan Bammes takes a look at how Utah’s Industries are contributing to air pollution.

Dan Bammes

The air pollution that we can see suspended in the cold air trapped during Utah’s infamous temperature inversions is called PM 2.5 – particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller.  Just how much of that comes from large industrial polluters is a subject of some dispute, along with just what should be done about it. Dan Bammes has the third in our series of reports on Clearing the Air.

In part two of our series on clearing the air KUER’s Terry Gildea takes a look at what state lawmakers are doing, the legislature gets its first look at several gun bills, and Senator Orrin Hatch brings gloom and doom to the House and Senate Floor.

Andrea Smardon

As Utahns persist through one of the worst winter inversion seasons in a decade, many have focused their frustration and anger over dirty air on elected officials in the Utah legislature.  In part two of our series Clearing the Air, KUER News explores the  short and long term solutions lawmakers are proposing.

Governor Gary Herbert weighs in on a potential statewide anti-discrimination bill, the Utah Senate gives preliminary approval to a bill that would require the state to collect abortion statistics, and oil and gas drilling are the cause of most of the air pollution in the Uintah basin.

Dan Bammes

  After a year of studying winter ozone air pollution in Utah’s Uintah Basin, a team of scientists has determined that oil and gas wells are causing most of the problem.  

The team at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus studied ozone last winter – when there were only a few inversion days and not much of a problem.  It’s been worse this year, and Seth Lyman with the Bingham Research Center says a big part of the problem is the volatile organic compounds such as benzene coming from thousands of oil and gas wells.

Local government leaders call on the state legislature to act on cleaning up the air, nearly a dozen nonprofits working to end violence against women put on a dance show at the State Capitol, and a group of same-sex couples in Salt Lake use Valentine’s day to bring attention to marriage equality.

Brian Grimmett

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker joined Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell at the State capitol today in announcing their ideas on how government on both the local and state level can help improve air quality.

A new report says that Utah would benefit from Medicaid expansion, protests continue over Utah’s poor air quality, and Dixie State College is on it’s way to becoming a University.

Utahns are well-acquainted with the dirty air lurking beyond their front doors in a winter inversion or summer ozone day.  A long string of unhealthy air days this winter has many residents saying "enough". Today KUER News and RadioWest begin “Clearing the Air,” a special series aimed at exploring the problem of Utah’s poor air quality and ways to improve it.  One of the contributing factors is car emissions, but is public transit a viable option for those living on the Wasatch Front? Can people use their cars less without compromising their lifestyle? 

Brian Grimmett

 A group of Democratic legislators are introducing six new bills in an effort to help tackle Utah’s poor air quality.

The content of the proposed bills ranges from offering free passes for UTA Buses and TRAX trains to allowing the state to put in place stricter restrictions than the Environmental Protection Agency already requires. Representative Joel Briscoe is sponsoring the bill that would fund giving away free UTA passes. He says even with a tight budget this is something that should be attainable.

Utahns crowd into Governor Herbert’s Capitol office demanding clean air, the LDS church weighs in on boy Scouts and gays, and local political and environmental leaders give their take on President Obama’s new Secretary of the Interior appointment.

Andrea Smardon

Utah citizens and activists gathered on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday to demand action to clean up the state’s polluted air.  The rally was part of a grassroots effort, including a Facebook campaign and petition.

University of Utah student Carl Ingwell started the Facebook campaign, urging people to inundate the Utah governor’s office with calls and e-mails, demanding action. His campaign led him to the steps of the Capitol, speaking to about 150 concerned citizens.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert promotes Prosperity 2020 goals in Washington, D.C., Utah Democrats call for the protection of Utah’s greater canyonlands, and the Division of Air Quality is targeting the use of toxic consumer cleaning products.

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