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New air pollution law in Utah will keep many state employees home

Jun 2, 2021, 5:44 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2021, 12:15 pm
Utah Clean Air Partnership urges Utahns to take steps toward cleaner air....
FILE - Smog covers Salt Lake City. Photo: Ravell Call,/Deseret News.

UPDATE: The air quality forecast for Friday, June 4th is for another mandatory action day for Salt Lake and Davis counties. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget says the same state employees who were asked to work from home on Thursday will be asked to stay home again on Friday. Ozone pollution is expected to be in the orange range, unhealthy for sensitive groups.

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SALT LAKE CITY- Thousands of Utah state employees will be working from home on Thursday, due to the air pollution. A new Utah law requires teleworking on days when the Utah Division of Air Quality calls for mandatory action to ease air pollution.

“Take the state out of the problem in air quality. When we have bad air, there’s no reason we should be asking state employees to get on the roads,” said the new law’s sponsor, State Senator Dan McCay.

McCay said the data showed in March 2020, the air was cleaner than last March 2019 because people were not driving as much due to the pandemic.

Jeff Mattishaw with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget said the trigger for the so-called “surge telework” is the air quality forecasted.

“So we trigger off of that action forecast, which predicts when we’ll have those bad air quality events,” Mattishaw told KSL NewsRadio.

Ozone pollution forms in hot weather when sunlight reacts with hydrocarbons in the air, which come mainly from vehicle emissions.

“We actually didn’t think we would have one before July,” Mattishaw said, “because that’s usually when we hit 100 degrees and ozone becomes a concern.” He says what will happen later in the week depends on the pollution forecast.

The new law also allows for surge telework during snowstorms or other emergencies.

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New air pollution law in Utah will keep many state employees home