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Utah Officials Push Back Over Lower Emissions Standards

State officials say tailpipe emissions from cars and light trucks account for almost 60% of the air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley. (disq/AdobeStock)
State officials say tailpipe emissions from cars and light trucks account for almost 60% of the air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley. (disq/AdobeStock)
September 25, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – The federal government is planning to revoke an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that allows California and 13 other states plus Washington D.C. to enact higher tailpipe emissions standards.

Utah officials say air quality in the state, particularly in the Salt Lake Basin, is rated among the worst in the country, and that allowing increased vehicle emissions could lead to higher rates of lung cancer, asthma and premature death.

In a report earlier this year, the American Lung Association ranked Salt Lake City as the 14th worst American city for ozone pollution. Paul Billings, national senior vice president for public policy with the American Lung Association, says the Trump administration's plan goes too far.

"This is really an outrageous attack on the Clean Air Act,” says Billings. “For more than 50 years, California has had the authority to set more protective standards, and it is really a move in the exact wrong direction."

In the Lung Association's State of the Air annual report in April, nine Utah counties were given failing grades for excessive levels of ozone and fine particulate pollution.

The Trump administration claims the changes will lower the price of new cars and boost sales. However, several major car makers – including Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW – say they plan to continue to meet the higher standards.

Billings says increasing emissions will only magnify the effects of climate change.

"Climate change makes air quality worse,” says Billings. “We have more hot, smoggy days, more droughts that drive wildfire, more extreme weather events. So not taking action to address carbon pollution makes air quality worse and threatens health."

The EPA rule change would go into effect in about two months but is likely to be challenged in court.

Disclosure: The Partnership Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT