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State regulators approve plan to improve the state's air quality

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Wednesday the Utah Air Quality Board passed its 10-year-state implementation plan, or SIP, designed to crack down on those dangerous pollutants.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Wednesday the Utah Air Quality Board passed its 10-year-state implementation plan, or SIP, designed to crack down on those dangerous pollutants.

       

Utah is unique with its cold winter weather, massive mountain ranges and growing population. Those things combined create a recipe for dangerous pollution.

 

In 2006 the U.S Environmental Protection Agency cut its allowable daily level of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, by nearly half and Utah's been struggling to meet those standards ever since.

 

Utah Division Air Quality Director Bryce Bird told ABC 4 Utah, "In 2009 we were officially designated as non-attainment, but really since 2006 we knew this was going to be a big problem for us."

 

PM2.5 has recently been declared a carcinogen. It’s one of the biggest problems during Utah’s winter months. The SIP is designed to cut down the pm2.5 pollution by 2019.

 

Rio Tinto Spokesperson Kyle Bennett says it’s going to be a difficult threshold for the company to meet. "It creates some challenges for us,” said Bennett. “It's going to require a 10 percent reduction from currently permitted emissions at the Bingham Canyon mine by 2019, and there's no available control technology to allow us to achieve that at this moment."

 

HEAL Utah’s Policy Director Matt Pacenza told ABC 4 Utah, "What he's failing to tell you is that during the coming decade they're actually going to be polluting quite a bit more because they're expanding their operations."

 

HEAL Utah says the state's plan doesn't go far enough to crack down on industrial polluters.

 

“There are significant cuts for vehicles, there are significant cuts for buildings, but for industry they're being allowed to increase their pollution by 12 percent in the coming decade,” explained Pacenza.    

 

The Utah Air Quality Board admits that the plan calls for a 12 percent increase of PM2.5 from heavy industry, but they say without it the pollution would have been much worse.

 

"Without this plan they would have grown by 20 percent with this plan we're limiting that growth to 12 percent,” said Bird.

    

With heavy industry only accounting for 11 percent of the typical winter emissions Bird says that growth over a ten year period is minimal.

 

The regulations under this new plan are now state law, but it's not necessarily a done deal. The state now has to send the SIP to the U.S. EPA for approval.

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