As the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) unveils the agency's third annual State of the Environment Report for 2008, Governor Jon Huntsman is poised to select a new director to oversee an agency with a strong record of fulfilling our mission - safeguard public health and our quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment. We continue to emphasize the best science and collaboration to achieve environmental success prompted by the foresight of DEQ directors Rick Sprott and Dianne R. Nielson, the Huntsman Administration and the Utah Legislature.
Air quality is improving due to tougher federal standards we are preparing to meet. We are achieving this even at a time when the 2008 population grew to 2.76 million - a 2.2 percent increase. Our partnerships with schools, businesses, local governments, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and clean air advocates have helped secure funding to retrofit school buses with cleaner technology. And our air quality three-day forecast continues to provide valuable information about current and pending air quality conditions, which is now more meaningful to school administrators and parents as the Asthma Task Force has recommended guidelines on when to keep children inside during recess based on the air quality index.
For the first time, benchmarks have been set for cutting greenhouse gasses (GHG) to combat climate change and ensuring a sustainable energy-efficient future. This came about as a result of Huntsman's Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change (BRAC) recommendations on how to reduce GHG in Utah and encourage continued growth of our renewable energy sector. This has provided the framework of continued progress. Utah is one of the growing members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) with a long-term commitment to significantly reduce GHG emissions. Meanwhile, numerous Utah businesses have signed up for the Climate Registry which lays the groundwork for the state to begin reporting GHG emissions.
In 2008, significant progress was achieved in the clearing of a 1,700-acre parcel, formerly the Geneva Steel mill property on the eastern shore of Utah Lake where cleanup is under way to transform a once blighted property into a bustling redevelopment that will encompass retail shops, office complexes, residential areas and light industrial space. We continue to work closely with city leaders, local residents and businesses to clean up contamination that is often the result of historic, unregulated practices that harmed the environment. Through the Superfund, Brownfields and Utah's Voluntary Cleanup programs, thousands of acres of commercial and residential properties have been cleaned and put back into beneficial use.
The first-ever standard for selenium pollution for the Great Salt Lake is now set - a ground-breaking achievement - while a governor-appointed Great Salt Advisory Council is looking at how to manage the lake for future generations.
More fish testing this past year has pinpointed mercury contamination in various waterways that has set the groundwork for further study.
Our ongoing success continues to be our dedicated employees who work in partnership with our various stakeholders. In August, Governor Huntsman launched the Working 4 Utah initiative, extending government service hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Non-essential government buildings are now closed on Fridays in order to save money, energy, improve air quality and enhance government services. The initiative, which has other states considering similar proposals, will be evaluated for a year to determine whether to continue it. I invite you to learn more about DEQ and the issues we are following by visiting the DEQ website.
Revised: November 2, 2009