Community members gathered at a discussion on action and strategies to improve air quality in Northern Utah Wednesday. Organizers of the workshop brought air quality experts, representatives from Utah's and Idaho's departments of environmental quality, Logan City council members, along with state and county officials.
Ed Redd (R-House 4) opened the public session by explaining why he spent the past Utah legislative session working on a bill to reduce the use of wood burning stoves along the Wasatch Front.
“Most legislators that live in Salt Lake County or Utah County or along the Wasatch Front are very aware of the problem. They don’t always know quite what to do about it—there is not a simple solution to the problem, so it’s not like we can come up with one thing that’s going to fix everything—but I think most of them are aware of it,” Redd said.
Redd says lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert are working with owners of oil refineries located north of Salt Lake that produce fuels containing sulfur, to find ways to encourage them to create cleaner burning fuels. Reduced sulfur fuels may cost the consumer more purchase initially, but, Redd says, car owners will benefit long term and the quality of air for residents living in the six counties near the refineries will see an obvious improvement in the air they breathe.
"Other states get some benefit, but our state really gets the most benefit of any place in the nation as far as effective low-sulfur content in gasoline. There is not another single thing we’re going to do that is going to make as much difference as that one intervention,” Redd said. “If all the refineries shut down then we’d have to truck fuel in from some other state. Our fuel costs could be higher, we’d have more pollution from trucking the fuel around, so we want them to stay where they are.”
Redd will work with other lawmakers during the upcoming 2015 legislative session to help find state funding to research air quality issues beyond those impacting Cache County, including the Uintah Basin. In the meantime, he says groups like the one meeting today to educate and encourage change through community are needed to help outline action plans that could influence change.
“If it’s well-presented and people can get that kind of information [they will] start thinking about what they can do or what they might want to do to try and improve the situation for themselves and improve the air quality for everybody,” Redd said.
Organizers of the Cache Clean Air Consortium dedicated today's workshop to the memory of Randy Wirth, co-owner of Caffe Ibis in Logan, and recognized him and his wife Sally Sears for serving as an example of how local businesses can practice sustainability in a community.