EPA Rejects Utah Request to Allow Higher Ozone

(Salt Lake City, UT) -Last year two of Utah’s largest industrial polluters, the Utah Mining Association (UMA) and Utah Petroleum Association (UPA), arm twisted the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) to formally request from the EPA a waiver for Utah from national EPA ozone standards. 

If the EPA had agreed to the request it would have subjected Utahns to higher levels of ozone air pollution.  Yesterday the EPA rejected the state’s request.

The state had attempted to waive the EPA’s ozone standard in Utah by blaming Asia for a significant part of our pollution. In rejecting that request, the EPA has taken the side of protecting public health rather than the profits of our largest industrial polluters.

“Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) strongly support the EPA’s ruling, and we’re confident Utah residents do as well. We should not forget that this saga was a betrayal of the public trust by our most powerful politicians that allowed our biggest industrial polluters to hijack the expertise and personnel of a critical state agency,” said Dr. Brian Moench, President UPHE.

Using an obscure section of the Clean Air Act, 179B, UDAQ had appealed to EPA for “relief” from non-attainment designation for ozone claiming evidence that some of the precursors of our ozone originate in Asia. This was the first ever attempt by any state to invoke this section in asking EPA to waive ozone standards. UDAQ’s call for “relief” was engineered by the UMA and UPA, assisted by a letter from Gov. Cox, Senate President Stuart Adams, and Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, that trivialized and criticized the EPA’s standards as “overly rigid federal mandates.”  In fact, those EPA standards are considered far too lax by virtually every medical organization in the country. Yet they are the primary reason why we don’t have even worse air quality. Our state agency had no business asking the EPA for this waiver, and our politicians betrayed the public trust in doing the bidding of industry at the expense of public health.  Thank you to the EPA for protecting Utah residents, but Utah citizens deserve better from our state agencies and our leading politicians. There is a 60-day public comment period and UPHE urges the public to support the EPA’s decision.