‘It could take years’ to Solve Ozone Pollution on the Wasatch Front, State Regulator Says

Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality spoke before lawmakers at a committee hearing Wednesday.

Utah, Orem, and Provo rank eighth worst in the country for ozone. Last week, legislators heard the director of the Utah Division of Air Quality explain that according to their data, 80% of the precursors of our ozone come from out of the state, specifically Asia. While we don’t have the modeling staff to challenge that, it raises the question, “Wouldn’t the same out of state sources also affect all the other cities that don’t rank in the top ten worst in the country?” Regardless of where the ozone comes from, we should do everything we can to reduce whatever we can because the research is very clear, no amount of air pollution is safe, it is all affecting our health and life expectancy.

That our legislative leaders, acting as the handmaidens of our industrial polluters, are asking the EPA to allow us to exceed the already far too weak ozone standards tells you everything you need to know about whether they are serving your interests or the interests of big polluters. 

The attitude of Sen. Derrin R. Owens, R-Fountain Green, reveals just how much they refuse to take our air pollution seriously. He said, “we should focus on the progress that has been made over the years to improve air quality. ‘We have better air now than we’ve had. So if that’s a crisis, people still are living and moving here.'” Yes, Sen. Owens, some of us are “still living here.” But people are also actually dying here because of our air pollution, by the thousands. Recent research suggests between 2,500 and 8,000 a year, and that doesn’t account for what is now our worst source of pollution, wildfire smoke. But to claim the fact that people are still “living here” and “moving here” means we should congratulate ourselves and focus on the fact that things used to be worse, is the kind of attitude that ensures the problem is never solved.

We also dispute that things are much better than they used to be. Yes, our inversions are not as dense, but ozone levels are increasing;, and wildfire smoke, by far the most toxic type of pollution, is now drifting over the Wasatch Front every day for months at a time, thanks to the climate crisis.

Use your voice and use your vote to help change business as usual. 

Read the Salt Lake Tribune article in full here.