Utah Dems propose bills to improve air quality

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-11 19:23:06-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation aimed at helping Utah's air quality.

Utah's air has made national and international news for being the worst in the nation, and residents are calling on state lawmakers to solve the problems.

"We all know that Utah citizen are demanding that state government find solutions to our air quality problems and there are no simple answers," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City.

House Democrats have proposed half a dozen bills aimed at improving air quality, including providing free UTA passes on red air days and giving tax credits to people who buy mass transit passes.

"We know that the majority of our pollution comes from our vehicles and have been told to reduce our vehicle travel. This simple voluntary change is not enough to create the cultural shift we need," said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City.

Proposed legislation also includes requiring state agencies to develop a plan that would reduce air pollution-causing activities, creating a transportation account for operating and expanding mass transit and implementing more stringent rules than those imposed by the EPA.

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who is also UTA's chair of the board of trustees, says that if anything, the proposed legislation sparks a debate about how Utah can improve its air quality.

"I think there's going to be some very big ideas coming forward in this legislative session to deal with clean air and how we get this infrastructure of our alternative fuels to our vehicles in the state," Hughes said.

When asked about the legislation proposed Monday by Democrats, specifically free UTA passes, Hughes said, "I don't think it requires a state nexus to do those things."

While the state GOP isn't fully receptive on the Democrats' proposals, they say we can expect some sort of legislation on air quality to come out of this year's session.