Gov. Cox wants Utah magnesium refinery added to list of polluters

Feb 28, 2023, 4:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY--- This year, Utah's having less days where air quality is forecasted to push levels...

FILE: Smog blankets the Salt Lake Valley during an inversion, as seen from Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox wants to add a magnesium refinery to a list of heavy polluters. (Kristin Murphy /Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy /Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox wants the Environmental Protection Agency to include a magnesium refinery in Utah’s Northern Wasatch Front ozone nonattainment area.

The governor said that including the Tooele County-based U.S. Magnesium in the nonattainment area would allow the Utah Division of Air Quality to help address the region’s pollution problems.

In a press release, Gov. Cox said that including the Utah magnesium refinery on the Great Salt Lake’s southwest boundary would give the state more tools to fight pollution.

“Utah has made significant strides in improving air quality over the past 10 years, but as our state continues to grow, we need to begin to look more strategically at opportunities to continue this trajectory,” Gov. Cox said in a press release. “This intentional approach gives us a focused range of tools that align with the outcome we all want – cleaner air and a better quality of life for Utahns.”

Ashley Sumner with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) touched on what that means.

“This particular area in question is not meeting air quality standards for ozone emissions,” said Sumner. 

U.S. Magnesium responds

Last month a National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) study claimed the Utah magnesium refinery could be responsible for up to 25% of winter pollution build-up, citing heavy chlorine and bromine emissions.

Further, Sumner says making U.S. Magnesium part of this nonattainment area would allow DEQ to help.

“This will essentially give us a broader range of tools to be able to implement and work with U.S. Magnesium to implement further emission reductions,” said Sumner. 

However, U.S. Magnesium President Ron Thayer said the study was “totally erroneous.” And that they are still waiting on the state to contact them about the study.  

Additionally, Thayer refutes the study which claims that U.S. Magnesium could contribute up to 25% of all pollution buildup during winter inversions. The EPA has 18 months to make a final decision on the governor’s request.

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Gov. Cox wants Utah magnesium refinery added to list of polluters