SALT LAKE CITY - A refinery broke ground on Tuesday for a major project that state officials and environmental groups say will improve the air quality in Utah.
Andeavor (formerly known as Tesoro) will begin making Tier 3 fuels and offering them to consumers beginning next year.
It will offer cleaner, lower sulfur gasoline which, in turn, will improve air quality within the region.
The company is the first in Utah to do so.
"It's the right thing to do," said Andeavor CEO Greg Goff at a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. "Our people live here also."
Andeavor agreed to begin making Tier 3 fuels after a personal plea from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
The Salt Lake Valley's topographic features lead to increased inversions, ozone and smog.
Vehicle tailpipes are the single largest contributor to air pollution, making up more than half of emissions.
Tier 3 fuels will cut emissions in older vehicles by 13% and reduce valley-wide pollutions by up to 80%, Gov. Herbert predicted.
"This is significant," the governor told the crowd, predicting that other Utah refineries will also begin switching to Tier 3 production.
Andeavor will also get an economic incentive to make Tier 3 fuels.
They will qualify for tax breaks (after showing post-performance results), said Dr. Laura Nelson of the Governor's Office of Energy Development.
Environmental groups were on hand for the groundbreaking, offering their support for the project.
HEAL Utah and the Utah Clean Air Partnership both have indicated Andeavor's project will help with air quality improvements.
Ironically, the groundbreaking came the same day the Trump administration began rolling back fuel emission standards set by the Obama administration.
Utah's Department of Environmental Quality said those standards related to gas mileage and federal rules on Tier 3 fuels remained in place.
The EPA's announcement did not phase Utah officials, who said they would continue to urge refineries to produce Tier 3 fuels.
Utah DEQ Executive Director Alan Matheson encouraged consumers to intentionally purchase Tier 3 fuels and vehicles with better smog ratings for the good of the state's overall air quality.
"Air quality is fundamental for our health, for our economy and our way of life," he said.