SALT LAKE CITY — It’s the final plan to get Utah’s emissions down to federal levels, but not everyone is on board.
FOX 13 News was at the Division of Air Quality’s board meeting Wednesday. The plan was given final approval despite numerous citizens and environmental groups speaking out against the plan as it is currently proposed. Public comment was not on the agenda, but that didn’t stop people from sharing their concerns.
The current state implementation plan, or SIP, allows for a 12 percent increase in pollution output from Utah’s heavy industry, which contributes about 11 percent of Utah’s emissions. It’s a part of the plan that isn’t sitting well with the dozens of citizens who attended the DAQ’s board meeting.
One citizen said, “It’s insulting to us that we’re working hard to do all the leg work for the SIP and it’s more insulting that our hard work allows wiggle room for industry to make more profits at our expense.”
Another said: “Many in the community think that the board is a stamp for industry, and we need to raise the credibility of this board to the issue of conscience. You cannot consciously approve this SIP with any more pollution from industry whatsoever.”
Citizens who spoke up said Utah’s air quality is an issue that will continue to hinder the growth of the state.
One resident said, “I know people that have families here, they love the state, they love everything about it except this issue, and this one issue is enough to make people leave the state.”
DAQ Director Bryce Bird said with the approval of this plan, and once the controls are in place, it should lower emissions by Utah’s heavy industry by more than 4,600 tons a year. DAQ researchers said there is no benefit to delaying the implementation process, and though they acknowledge the plan could be stronger for that sector, they said waiting for the final approval of the plan will only continue the air quality problems we’re seeing.
Bird said, “Making sure that these companies that are significant contributors to our air pollution are required to bring their processes up to the current standards, and that’s really what this plan does – we identified basically bringing up all the old equipment to meet what a new refinery designed today would have to meet.”
With this plan now approved, Utah’s refineries and other heavy industry are placed on a timeline for making the necessary changes to control their emissions and implement new limitations for how much they can emit.
DAQ officials tell FOX 13 News that even with this current plan they’ve approved, they know the federal Environmental Protection Agency is changing the state’s requirements, so within the next year they’ll have to do some updates and likely have to address this again in 2017.