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New bill lists Utah air pollution as contributor to someone's death

Posted at 3:10 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 18:39:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill introduced ahead of the 2022 legislative session would allow air pollution to be listed as a factor in someone's death on an official death certificate.

House Bill 109, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, allows a physician to say that air pollution was a contributor to someone's death when it's put on file with Utah's Department of Health.

In an interview with FOX 13, Rep. Handy said so far he has only heard anecdotal evidence that Utah's air quality issues have factored into deaths and he wants data. The bill, he said, is part of a longer strategy to get data that can inform air quality policy.

"I’m hoping with additional data points it will, in fact, inform policy makers in the future. And I don’t know what we’re talking, five years, 10 years out there, but it will be very interesting to put this under a microscope to see, and then address policies as needed to protect people’s health," he said.

Rep. Handy, who co-chairs the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus on Utah's Capitol Hill, said they will try to advance more air quality measures this year. It is not expected to get the same level of attention as previous years given the tremendous amount of legislation surrounding water conservation. Still, Rep. Handy said expect some bills to advance clean air needs and pushing people to electric vehicles.

A major piece of legislation seeks to cut Utah's emissions by 2030. One issue that is expected to be addressed is declining gas tax revenues and the rise of electric vehicles. The issue is because they don't use gas, electric vehicles drive on the same roads but don't pay the gas tax, which pays for road repairs. Bills are anticipated to be introduced to push "road user mile fees" to provide some equity.

Rep. Handy said it will be a delicate balance to entice people to continue to purchase electric vehicles, while getting them to also pay for road maintenance.

"We want more EVs," he said. "Only 2.5% of cars in Utah are EVs, but we want it have it be fairer."