Want to escape Utah’s inversion? A progressive group is holding a contest to help you get away

SALT LAKE CITY -- With cold temperatures setting in and the smog hovering above from another inversion, a left-leaning advocacy group is sponsoring a contest to escape it.

The Alliance for a Better Utah is holding a contest for a lucky winner to flee the cold to Las Vegas in mid-February.

"Just give people an opportunity to escape the cold, escape the pollution and go have fun somewhere," laughed Chase Thomas, ABU's executive director.

It's the fourth year the group has held the contest, designed to draw attention to Utah's ongoing air quality problems.

It comes as a coalition of environmental and community groups are leveling a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to hold Utah accountable for more than a decade of air quality regulation violations.

FOX 13 first reported on Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity, SLC Air Protectors, Westside Coalition and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment were filing a notice of intent to sue the EPA over the state's notoriously bad air. On Thursday, the groups followed through with that threat.

"Our air quality still continues to be very unhealthy for our residents so it’s time to stop dragging our feet and if now’s not the time, it never will be," said Jonny Vasic of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

The litigation comes at a time when Governor Gary Herbert is proposing to spend a whopping $100 million to improve air quality in the state.

"We all recognize the need to improve air quality. That's why I have recommended that the legislature invest an unprecedented $100 million toward air quality improvements. I trust they will make this investment for Utah's health and well-being," the governor said in a statement to FOX 13 in response to questions about the litigation.

Normally on the other side of the political spectrum, ABU's Thomas said the group was supportive of the Republican governor's proposal.

"There’s so many more options we could be taking to better our air quality and we need to be because it’s affecting the health of Utahns across the state," he said.

The governor can propose the spending, but it's the Utah State Legislature that approves the budget. The 2019 legislative session begins in a couple of weeks.