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After ten-year effort, Utah meets EPA's clean air standards

Posted at 2:50 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 16:50:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Environmental Protection Agency says the Wasatch Front has met attainment standards for air quality.

It’s taken ten years to get to this point, but thanks to regulations and help from Utahns, the state can now say it meets standards.

“It’s a good day, it’s a strong day,” said Thom Carter, Executive Director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR). “It’s an exciting day for the people of Utah.”

Carter says the state has worked to achieve the federal air quality standards, which for so long had been harmful to residents, especially those living in populated valleys.

“Air quality is first a geography problem, then it’s a weather problem, then it’s an emissions problem,” Carter said. “So we’re kind of behind the eight ball.”

Carter says state and local groups worked overtime to put regulations in place to meet the standards.

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“But it shows that it’s working and it continues to work and that additionally on top of that people are taking responsibility,” Carter said. “And seeing all our data that people are being idle-free, carpooling, this element of telework that we’ve been able to do, that our mobile source is a large part of this.”

The EPA announced Tuesday that Utah now has three years of clean air data, meaning the state meets standard air quality levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 which are harmful particulate matter that can enter the nose, throat and lungs.

“Significant milestone in our efforts to make sure we have a clean, pristine environment here,” Gov. Gary Herbert said. “Air quality issues that we are addressing and having some success.”

Utah’s regional haze plan was also approved.

“The regional haze has to do with what is going on with visibility and air quality around our national parks,” Carter said. “You know we want to ensure that those who come, not only Utahns who love our national parks, but our visitors can come and can then see.”

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Carter says none of this could have been achieved without the help of Utahns who have cut emissions, carpooled, upgraded their vehicles and switched to gas burning stoves. Still, he stresses this achievement doesn’t mean the work stops here.

“We go to work later today to continue to get people to drive down emissions because we cannot rest on our laurels,” Carter said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”