POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

A major air quality bill just got revived and is passing the Utah legislature

Mar 6, 2023, 8:30 AM

Air pollution over SLC...

Smog settles over the Salt Lake Valley during an inversion on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education, and media organizations to help inform people about the history and the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — In the final hours of the Utah State Legislature, a major air quality bill was resurrected.

House Bill 220, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, started out with the ambitious goal of reducing air pollution along the Wasatch Front by as much as 50% by 2030. But he changed it to target U.S. Magnesium, which a recent study claimed is responsible for as much as 25% of northern Utah’s air pollution (the company has disputed it and said the bill will not accomplish much).

The bill originally called for Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality to regulate bromine and chlorine emissions. In a House committee, that was stripped out in favor of a study on halogen emissions.

Then the Senate, led by Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, put it back in. When the House refused to go along with it? That triggered what’s called a “conference committee,” which is a bipartisan group of lawmakers who sit in a room and try to hammer out an agreement.

FOX 13 News was in the room on Thursday night when the reached a deal: there will be a study, but the state is now authorized to come up with a plan and take action to regulate the emissions by 2026.

“We’re taking steps forward. That’s all we want,” Rep. Stoddard said after they reached consensus.

Members of the environmental group O2 Utah were thrilled to see it happen.

“We are so excited!” said Eliza Cowie, the group’s policy director. “This is a first of its kind for the state to say ‘we are taking this seriously.'”

The Senate approved the deal unanimously late Thursday.

“I think it’s huge. Obviously if we can get 25% of our inversions out through this regulation, that will be huge for air quality. Obviously, this company is very under scrutiny for the Great Salt Lake. Hopefully it can benefit that as well,” Rep. Stoddard told FOX 13 News. “We’ve got a lot of people who have worked on this bill, let’s keep doing it to clean our air and save our lake.”

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A major air quality bill just got revived and is passing the Utah legislature