Utah's air quality challenges are among the issues state lawmakers will consider during this year's legislative session. Rep. Patrice Arent is the co-chair and founder of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, which is focused on passing legislation that addresses air pollution. She says this session picks up where the last left off.
"It certainly was the case that we passed more legislation last year, and did more in terms of appropriations than we had in my prior 13 sessions combined," she said. "But we need to continue that work. There's still a lot more to do."
Arent says lawmakers approved $4.7 million in funding for a dozen measures aimed at improving air quality during the 2014 legislative session. Those measures included tax incentives for buying electric vehicles and a voluntary program for homeowners to convert wood-burning stoves to cleaner fuels such as natural gas.
The clean-air bills often get bipartisan support, Arent says, because it's broadly understood that poor air quality can hurt the state's economy.
"When people come to town and they see a horrible inversion, it doesn't leave a great impression. And when they come in and say, 'Hey, is this a place I want to locate my business? Is this a place I want to recommend to vacation?' It's difficult when we have bad air.," Arent said.
Bills to be considered this year would add funding for mass transit programs, create tax credits for energy-efficient vehicles, and provide more money for clean air programs.