Legislation Promotes Cleaner Air
Record Number of Air Quality Bills during 2014 Session
A long January inversion combined with protests at the Capitol helped put air quality front-and-center during the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers passed legislation to cut emissions, encourage energy efficiency, support clean vehicles and fuels, and reduce wood smoke in nonattainment areas. Funding provided by one-time and ongoing appropriations will boost air quality research and division staffing, increase public awareness of clean air issues, retrofit heavy-duty diesel engines, swap out high-polluting small engines, and convert wood-burning fireplaces to natural gas in homes where wood is the sole source of heat.
Proposed bills to fund transit, establish a grant program to replace "dirty diesel" school buses, and allow the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to create air quality standards that are stricter than federal standards all failed to win legislative approval.
Here's a look at the air quality legislation passed during the 2014 session:
Legislators directed the Division of Fleet Operations to ensure that 50 percent or more of the state vehicles used to transport passengers will be alternative fuel or high-efficiency by August 30, 2018,
A House bill amended the current definition of public utilities to encourage businesses to provide charging stations for electric cars. Another bill provides a state income tax credit of $1500 for the purchase or lease of a new electric vehicle and a tax credit allowance for a plug-in electric hybrid. Legislation modified The Clean Fuels and Vehicle Technology Act to allow electric-hybrid vehicles to qualify for funding for alternative refueling infrastructure.
Wood Burn Program
The Division of Air Quality received funding to educate the public about the dangers of wood smoke and help convert homes whose sole source of heat is wood to natural gas or other clean fuels.
Medical Waste Incinerators
A Senate bill banned the incineration of medical waste within close proximity of a school or residential subdivision.
Retrofit and Replacement Program
This program will help small businesses and individuals by providing grant and loan funds for emission-reducing technologies, including retrofits, repowers, and replacements. The program will also encourage replacement of snow removal, landscaping, and other yard equipment with cleaner alternatives.
DAQ received a one-time, $1.4 million grant that allocated $1 million for Utah-specific air quality research, $300,000 for an inventory and photochemical modeling study in the Uinta Basin, and $100,000 for volatile organic compound (VOC) infrared testing equipment. DAQ also received $400,000 in ongoing funding for four full-time employees to work on Uinta Basin oil and gas permitting and compliance.
The legislature appropriated $500,000 to DEQ for an air quality public awareness campaign in partnership with existing clean air programs such as UCAIR and TravelWise. DAQ received a one-time, $500,000 appropriation to help convert homes that burn wood as their sole source of heat and a one-time, $250,000 grant to educate the public on the hazards of wood smoke. The Clean Air Retrofit, Replacement, and Off-road Technology (CARROT) program received a one-time grant of $200,000 for grants and loans to small businesses and individuals seeking to reduce the emissions from their heavy-duty diesel or small-engine equipment.
Governor Herbert signed a budget bill that gave DEQ over $50 million for FY 2015. Other DEQ-related legislation amended provisions for underground petroleum storage tanks, allowed individuals to bury nonhazardous solid waste in areas where no public or licensed waste disposal was available, and provided funding for a radon awareness campaign to be administered by the Department of Health in coordination with the Division of Radiation Control.