For years, Utah’s air pollution problem was virtually ignored by policy makers -- even when the air was foul for weeks at a time. But a growing activist movement has made the issue a top priority for a majority of Utahns, thanks in large part to Moench.
He stood on the State Capitol steps last January in front of thousands of people. Winter smog surrounded them.
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.
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.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert is out of the country right now on a trade mission in Israel. But that didn’t stop environmentalists from holding an Earth Day rally right in front of the Governor’s Mansion on South Temple.
As traffic whizzed by on one of Salt Lake City’s busiest streets, demonstrators wrote their messages of protest on blue ribbons. They had to tie them to a volleyball net because they weren’t allowed to put them on the governor’s wrought-iron fence.
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.
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.