As the winter chill creeps into the air, not far behind -- if last January was anything to judge by -- is the fearful prospect of smog so thick you can taste it. But what is Utah doing about avoiding another season of inversions?
The answer, according to clean-air activists, appears to be pandering to big industry with a new plan that allows increases in industrial pollutants, while citizens and small businesses have to make cuts in their contributions of particulate matter to the chunky air.
HEAL Utah's Christopher Thomas fears that the state's plan to fight wintertime smog is unlikely to bring the Beehive State into federal compliance with healthy air standards by 2019, a deadline imposed by the Clean Air Act.
Utah is seeking cuts of 46.4 percent in vehicle emissions and 17.6
percent from homes and businesses over the period from 2010 to 2019,
it's permitting a 12 percent increase from heavy industry through
the same period. Kennecott Mine Concentrator tops the list with the
largest increase allowed over the 10 years: 1,458 tons of pollution [a
combined total of PM2.5, NOx, VOCs, NH3 and SO2 emissions], taking it to
just under 5,000 tons annually by 2019.
The state wants public comment before Oct. 31 on its new plan, which involves 20 new rules requiring residents and small businesses to cut back on emissions, including hairspray and varnish applications.
Because the state plan to achieve compliance leaves little margin for error, clean-air activists are seeking a second opinion to assess how cuts to the state's largest polluters could be implemented to speed up the process. They want the Department of Air Quality to extend public comment by 30 days so they can prepare a response to the plan.
"Given [the plan's] complexity, if DAQ does not extend the comment period, it will make it virtually impossible for the public to have a meaningful voice in this process," said Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
The clean-air groups have set up a petition for those who want to weigh in on the plan at a new website, or you can e-mail Mark Berger with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality at email@example.com with your comments.