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Utah has new task force to tackle state’s bad air

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Posted at 8:17 PM, Jan 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-03 00:48:54-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Turns out the pollution isn't only painful to your lungs; it's hurting Utah's pocketbook, too.

"Very little has been done," says Representative Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake County. "That was one of my frustrations and the reason I proposed a task force last year."

The Democratic lawmaker admits the Utah legislature needs to step it up. Rep. Arent helped champion an Economic Development Task Force, designed to study the impact Utah's bad air has on our health and its ability to attract new business.

"Are we losing employees; are we losing possible business transfers?"

Erin Mendenhall, the Outreach and Education Coordinator with Breathe Utah says the answer is yes.

How many businesses are hesitant from moving to Utah and how many employees are leaving because of the bad air can't be quantified just yet, but Utah's task force has two years to study that, in addition to finding solutions.

"With our state legislative session looming it is a perfect time for us to be thinking about what can we do as a state to improve our air quality," says Mendenhall.

Not much has been done so far with the exception of some educational outreach through the Governor's Office.

A state law was also passed in 2011, requiring the DMV to provide an air quality curriculum to new drivers.

"In 2011, Utah issued almost 74,000 new driver's licenses, not renewals, so we're looking at tens of thousands of new drivers on our roads that previous to this law passing had no air quality education."

Rep. Arent says something else the task force may consider down the road is possibly tax incentives.

"It's hard to say is it an incentive to convert fleets to natural gas, is it an incentive to get people to take more mass transit, I mean there's so many different ideas."

However, there isn't much on the table just yet with just 26 days until the 2013 legislative session begins and Utah's task force won't be ready to suggest any solutions until next year.