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'Roadmap' Poses Utah Policy Solutions on Air Quality, Climate Change

The Salt Lake Valley experiences a choking air inversion every winter due to tailpipe emissions and other pollutants.  (Kryhin/AdobeStock)
The Salt Lake Valley experiences a choking air inversion every winter due to tailpipe emissions and other pollutants. (Kryhin/AdobeStock)

February 4, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY -- Could members of the conservative Utah Legislature be considering a plan to deal with climate change? The answer is a definite "maybe." As lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week, they found copies of The Utah Roadmap, a paper aimed at developing policies to improve air quality and address changing climate.

The document was developed by a University of Utah think tank and contains several strategies - or mileposts - for tackling climate issues over the coming decades. Tom Holst, senior energy analyst with the Gardner Policy Institute, said there are some obstacles to overcome to get legislators to implement any part of the study during the current session.

"Utah is a red state. Most of the states that have adopted emissions-reduction goals and targets are either on the West Coast or the East Coast," Holst said. "There's a total of 20 states that have adopted the reduction goals."

The report was ordered by the Legislature in its 2019 session and developed with input from a 37-member Technical Advisory Committee that included representatives from state and local governments, industry, academia and environmental advocates.

One of the plan's main objectives is to reduce pollutant emissions by 50% and carbon emissions by 80%. Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, an adviser on the project, said curtailing emissions is critical to reducing the choking brown cloud that hits the Salt Lake Valley every winter.

"I think one of the most important recommendations in the study is to adopt the goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050," Wright said. "And after we adopt that goal, then we can develop a plan as the states move forward."

Holst said another major goal is the creation of a laboratory in the state to study air-quality and climate-change solutions.

"These fine particulate matter, which are, for the most part, the cause of either pulmonary disease or bronchitis or medical conditions that are created - how are they formed? Why are they formed? What can we do to eliminate them?" Holst said.

Other recommendations include adhering to quality growth standards, having governments and institutions follow best environmental practices, converting Utah to an electric vehicle state, and providing economic assistance to affected communities.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT