Due to high levels of smog, Utah is enacting new regulations to decrease smog-creating airborne particulates by 40%, similar to California’s cap and trade program. Though some companies think the new regulations go too far, new rules will help the state abide by federal clean-air standards set by the EPA. Utah is hoping the legislation will be put into place by 2014.
The smog gathers on Utah’s Wasatch Front, the pollution sitting over a city of 2.1 million people. So far this winter, state officials have announced 35 “red alert” days in Salt Lake City, the highest level of unhealthy air quality. In response to the smog, groups like the Utah Clean Air Alliance have formed, aimed at urging the state to reduce emissions allowances. However, Utah is widely known as a business-friendly, regulation-averse state, and, in the past, has allowed many companies to expand without lowering their emissions caps.
Metal smelters, steelmakers, wood manufacturers, specific restaurants, auto body shops and hair salons will be most drastically hit by the Utah Division of Air Quality’s new regulations, which will prove costly.
By August 1, for example, restaurants that use chain-driven flame broilers to cook their meat will have to install catalytic converters to catch any particulates. The new rules will also limit the amount of volatile organic compounds found in industrial coatings and consumer products, like wood stains, paint primers and hair spray. Additionally, auto body shops will have to switch to water-based primers.
Many residents and small businesses don’t believe Utah’s new regulations go far enough, and that big businesses won’t be monitored by the state. Industry representatives maintain that auto pollution is the real culprit, citing a report from the Division of Air Quality shows that 52% of particulates come from vehicle exhaust, and the rest from small businesses.
In light of the “gridlocked political environment” currently in Washington, it seems unlikely that any climate legislation will pass at the national level until 2014 mid-term national elections, as Republicans and red state Democrats in both the House and Senate run for “conservative political covers”.
Until then (and maybe even beyond 2014, if democrats don’t take control of the House and achieve a filibuster-proof majority in Senate), the only two viable options are:
1. Let states, such as California and now Utah, regulate emission at the state level. Which states are likely to follow? Perhaps Oregon, Washington, New York and other Northeastern states.
2. Let President Obama and the EPA initiate and enforce emission standards as articulated by the President in his second inaugural address. The US Supreme court has already upheld EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases under existing Clean Air Act.
We are betting that the best solution will be the first option, as it has been for so many recent social changes, such as “gun violence and “marriage equality”, that have occurred at the state level.
Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan
March 26, 2013
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