Utah Democracy and Clean Air Swallowed

March 22nd, 2014

By Cherise Udell
Printed in the Salt Lake Tribune

The John Swallow case showcases political corruption in Utah at its finest. In essence, Swallow, as Utah Attorney General, had a “For Sale” sign on his office door. Unfortunately, what Swallow did was not unique – it is only that he got caught and thoroughly exposed.

The experience of clean air citizen lobbyists at the legislature this past session revealed that many elected officials in Utah have also been seduced by big money and power. This was demonstrated to us with daily high-fives and chummy back-slapping between many state legislators and industry lobbyists. And that was in public view – who knows what was happening behind closed doors!

Actually, we do know. These industrial lobbyists were making every effort to undermine legislation that would impact big industry’s ability to pollute. These same lobbyists – many from the law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer – also suggest and help write pollution-friendly legislation. Yes, these pro-pollution lobbyists get paid big bucks for big results (they have to, otherwise who would want to be pro-pollution?) – and the outcome is that our democracy is compromised and our lungs suffer.

Yes, these pro-pollution lobbyists get paid big bucks for big results (they have to, otherwise who would want to be pro-pollution?) – and the outcome is that our democracy is compromised and our lungs suffer.

In another example, we regularly contacted lawmakers and tried to arrange face-to-face meetings. Occasionally, a lawmaker would come out in front of the chambers and listen for two or three minutes before dashing back inside. Meanwhile, we watched industry lobbyists being readily escorted to the private spaces hidden behind the Senate chambers.

We knew industrial lobbyists crawled on the hill like red ants raiding a picnic, but were shocked to see that Rio Tinto/Kennecott, Utah’s biggest polluter, alone had fourteen registered lobbyists while Medical Waste Incinerator Stericycle, had ten. Tesero had four – and this list of industrial lobbyists goes on. A few of these lobbyists are what some would call mercenaries in that they lobby for multiple big polluters.

It quickly became clear that this army of pro-pollution lobbyists stationed full-time on the Hill is no match for the public. After all, how many citizens can take six weeks off work to spend all day at the Capitol during a legislative session? How many citizens have the legal background to understand let alone write complex bills? How many citizens can show up to testify at committee hearings with only 24-hour notice? How many non-profits can afford to hire a hotshot lobbyist from Parsons Behle & Latimer, who brag on their website, “ [we] not only assist clients in complying with the law, we help shape it.”

Unfortunately, the access these paid lobbyists enjoy matters tremendously. As Sen. Dabakis lamented during a committee hearing, “The system is rigged to not have clean air.” Consequently, mandatory rules are made voluntary, enforcement measures the public wants are removed, and the government entities designed to protect our health become industry puppets.

Citizens demanding clean air truly fight a good battle in an unfair war.

But remember, we do have truth, justice and what is morally right on our side. We can make our own army of determined citizens – no one is stopping us. In the end, our democracy, when vigorously utilized, does ensure that justice prevails over injustice. The recent resignation of John Swallow attests to this. So does the fact that despite the system being rigged against us, numerous clean air bills did pass.

So, to the Utah citizens that exercised their democratic rights this past session, Utah Moms for Clean Air thanks you. For all of those who did not, but wanted to, we encourage you to get involved – your voice is truly needed.

Last, but not least, to all of the Senators and Representatives who truly looked out for the public good in spite of temptation not to, we celebrate you as heroes in the good fight for what is right.

Hardship Pay for Living in China’s Lung-Deep Pollution. Is Utah next?

March 14th, 2014

By Ari Phillips
First published with
March 13, 2014

Hardship pay has taken on new meaning for foreign workers in China. On Thursday, Japanese-based Panasonic became the first international company to openly state that it will pay employees in China a wage premium to compensate the hazardous air pollution levels there.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard any company be quite so brazen about it,” Robert Parkinson, head of Beijing-based recruiter RMG Selection, told the Financial Times. “It’s a bit like saying we know we are exposing you to something that could be life-threatening. We’re going to admit it and compensate you for it.”

The move came during Japan’s annual labor talks, which otherwise focused on preventing an economic slowdown and boosting workers’ wages. A Panasonic document from the labor talks reads “as for the premium for expatriates to compensate for a different living environment, the company will have a special review for those sent to Chinese cities.”

Throughout the winter, Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have been suffering severe pollution bouts unheard of in most other cities — causing flight delays, school closings and widespread public concern. The government has been making large strides to try and assuage the worries of both Chinese citizens and foreign workers — including top executives and other senior staff — that they are doing all they can to clear the air and make the atmosphere more inviting.

“We will declare war on pollution and fight it with the same determination we battled poverty,” China’s premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of China’s Parliament last week in an occasion similar to the annual State of the Union speech in the U.S.

Even before China declared a war on pollution, Panasonic generally paid employees posted in China a premium for working in a “hardship posting,” which was not uncommon for other companies to do as well. However, announcing remuneration specifically for polluted air sets a new precedent for multinational companies operating in China.

“This puts huge pressure on other multinationals to follow suit,” Professor Kamel Mellahi from the Warwick Business School in the U.K. told the International Business Times. “Given the high status of Panasonic in China, one expects other multinationals to start introducing something similar.”

With pollution monitors in Beijing hitting PM 2.5 readings 10 to 15 times the maximum recommended allowance by the World Health Organization, apprehension over working in China is not surprising. PM 2.5 particles are particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, and they can penetrate the lungs and cause premature death. PM 2.5 particles come from vehicle emissions and other operations that involve burning fossil fuels, such as coal-fired power plants and heavy industry that ring many large Chinese cities as they’ve rapidly industrialized.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard any company be quite so brazen about it,” Robert Parkinson, head of Beijing-based recruiter RMG Selection, told the Financial Times. “It’s a bit like saying we know we are exposing you to something that could be life-threatening. We’re going to admit it and compensate you for it.”

If Utah does not aggressively deal with it’s own air pollution problem, local companies may have to offer hardship pay to get the best workers to agree to live here.

The Haze Is Lifting in Utah, But Not The Hazy Ideas About Pollution

February 26th, 2014

By Dr. Brian Moench
President of Utah Physicians for A Healthy Environment

It’s easy for an alcoholic to commit to abstinence after he’s been in a car accident. It’s also easy to abandon that commitment once the accident is only seen receding in the rear view mirror of his mind.

So it is with air pollution. The best time to get citizens and the Legislature to commit to long term policy changes is when the consequences of inaction are staring them in the face, specifically the eyes, nose and throat part of the face — “pollution inebriation” if you will. Nothing focuses the mind quite like the inability to breathe.

Obviously, our pollution will return. Maintaining focus and commitment while the air is clean is the key to mitigating the next round of pollution inebriation, and the next, and the next. Knowing the truth and the full extent of the problem and its consequences is critical to crafting solutions.

The consequences of not knowing the truth is currently on full display in West Virginia and North Carolina, where more than 300,000 people have had their water polluted by chemical spills and coal ash tailings ponds. Assurances from their state agencies and the companies involved that everything’s fine is little comfort to people who are still passing out and throwing up from drinking the water and smelling it when they shower. Skepticism about the safety of their water is universal.

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) has been similarly skeptical about claims made about our air pollution. The public has been spoon-fed information from several state agencies and industry that has been misleading and confusing, with inadequate scrutiny from the media.

It’s time to pull back the curtain on what’s really going on in the air over Smog Lake City.

We have collected comments from multiple government agencies, UCAIR, a recent KUED documentary and industry, and have found a remarkable potpourri of misinformation, some of which may be an innocent lack of understanding on the part of the perpetrators, but some of which is either clearly agenda driven or willful ignorance. Below is our list of top 12 air pollution “whoppers.”

1. “Yellow alert” pollution is “unhealthy [only] for sensitive groups.”

2. “Poor air quality is not expected to increase the risk of birth defects or other poor pregnancy outcomes … and is not expected to increase the risk of developmental delays or autism.”

3. Industry is responsible for only 11 percent of our air pollution.

4. Our air quality is good 95 percent of the time, winter inversions are our only problem.

5. Once the inversion breaks, the health consequences are over.

6. Burning wood on a “green burn” has no health consequence.

7. If you have no symptoms from pollution, then you are not affected.

8. Historically Wasatch Front air pollution has always been bad and a natural phenomenon, so we can be less concerned.

9. The state is doing everything it can to clean up our air.

10. Once it lands on the ground, air pollution just becomes fertilizer.

11. Large smoke stack industries are monitored 24 hours a day.

12. DAQ permitting guarantees no net increase in emissions from large sources.

Each of these claims deserves a thorough deconstruction, far beyond the word limit of a newspaper op-ed. UPHE have compiled a report, “Smoke and Mirrors: Fact vs. Fiction About Utah’s Air Pollution,” that addresses these issues which we will present at a public forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium.

Utah citizens deserve the full story on our air pollution, then they can judge for themselves whether they are being patronized, much like the water pollution victims in West Virginia and North Carolina.

Brian Moench is a Salt Lake City physician and founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.


February 12th, 2014

Three journalists recently asked me for a list of our accomplishments, so I decide to also share this list with all of you as a reminder of the power we have when we stand firm and unwavering in our defense of our children. Some of the items on this list were obviously collaborative efforts, while others the moms did on their own, but all together it is a seven year kick-ass list that we should all be proud of!!

* We toppled plans for two local coal-fired power plants.

* We forced a proposal for a highly polluting petroleum-coke energy plant just outside of Salt Lake City to be shelved.

* We worked with Representative Christine Johnson to draft and pass House Bill 106, which allocated $100,000 to retrofit the diesel-spewing school bus fleet in Utah. This bill also allowed Utah to tap into over a million dollars in federal air pollution mitigation money.

* We successfully pressured the Utah Department of Transportation to nix a 6-lane mega-transportation corridor that would have been adjacent to 21 schools, virtually creating a cancer corridor for those students. Instead of this mega-freeway, they built a parkway and are implementing public transportation, including a dedicated train line from the suburbs to downtown Salt Lake City.

* With UPHE we took Kennecott to court for violating the Clean Air Act. This was the first time that any public interest groups have taken the mining giant to court in Utah’s history. The judge’s ruling is pending – and we could very likely win.

* We were one of the first Utah groups to challenge the notorious Las Vegas Water Grab. We supported the UPHE phone and email campaign to the Governor, which quite possibly was the deciding factor in Governor refusing to sign the agreement.

* Chevron Refinery management stated to a group University of Utah oil engineers that they were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new pollution controls because of the influence of Utah Moms for Clean Air along with Utah Physicians for Clean Air on public opinion.

* We helped organize a sister organization, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air, for the primary purpose of fighting a proposed copper mine in Kamloops, British Columbia. We traveled to Canada to provide logistical support to their movement.

* We were one of the key groups to mount public opposition to HB477, the “kill GRAMMA” bill, that was eventually overturned by the legislature after widespread public outrage and the rally we co-organized on Capitol Hill.

* Instrumental in launching an idle-free initiative in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.

* Instrumental in establishing recess guidelines for poor-air-quality days, which are promoted by the Utah Department of Public Health and followed by most Utah schools.

* Proposing and getting passed an enforceable idle-free law in Park City.

* Educated thousands of Utah children and adults on the importance of clean air.

* Successfully pressured Utah’s Department of Air Quality to tighten conditions on Rio Tinto’s mining permit.

* Traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for clean air, meeting with state senators, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House officials.

* We traveled twice to London to speak at the Rio Tinto/Kennecott shareholder meeting and demand accountability for their Utah operations.

* At our suggestion, Kennecott/Rio Tinto implemented an idle-reduction program which resulted in a pollution reduction equivalent to removing 1 in 7 cars off the road.

* According to Bryce Bird with the Department of Air Quality, our constant call for cleaner air and watchdog position has resulted in a much stronger State Implementation Plan.

* Wrote a plan for Governor Herbert entitled Path to Improving Air Quality in Utah which resulted in the Governor creating his Clean Air Action Team (CAAT).

* Co-hosted one of the biggest (maybe the biggest) CLEAN AIR rally in U.S. history on January 25, 2014. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people joined together on the steps of the Utah Capitol calling for immediate and bold government action to clean-up Utah’s chronically dirty air.

and this is only a partial list….

Clean Living Really Pays Off: The Economic Benefits to Individuals of Clean Air

February 4th, 2014

First Published in the Economist
Feb 4th, 2014

Policies to reduce pollution are often cast as detrimental to economic growth. But this need not always be the case. As we pointed out last month, policies such as cutting fossil-fuel subsidies can both cut carbon emissions and boost growth.

A new paper, “Every breath you take—every dollar you’ll make: the long-term consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970*” suggests another measure to curb pollution that may have had beneficial long-term economic impacts for individuals. The paper’s authors, Adam Isen, Maya Rossin-Slater and Reed Walker, compared the adult labour-market outcomes of those born in counties in America where air pollution decreased as the result of the 1970 Clean Air Act to those born in areas where pollution did not fall in this period. They found that those who were born in counties that were forced to cut air pollution as a result of the legislation earned more by their thirties than they would have otherwise: gaining approximately $4,300 each in extra income over their lives.

At first, this result may seem a little strange. As dirty industries closed in many affected areas as a result of the Clean Air Act, one would expect incomes to fall as the result of increased unemployment. Yet the authors of the paper found the opposite: the long-term benefits of better childhood health on adult incomes outweighed the other negative immediate economic effects that may have resulted from the legislation.

The impact of air pollution while growing up is obviously not the only factor that affects adult outcomes. Supporters of the so-called “fetal origins hypothesis” have long been convinced that being conceived or born during a famine or an economic depression can reduce your adult life expectancy, and increase the chance of having conditions such as heart disease and diabetes in old age. And, according to this paper, exposure to pollution when young may affect you for the rest of your life. More evidence, it seems, that the long term benefits of environmental proposals—and not just those that materialise in the immediate future—need to be considered with more care by politicians.

* “A. Isen, M. Rossin-Slater and R. Walker, “Every breath you take—every dollar you’ll make: the long-term consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970″, NBER working paper 19858, January 2014.


January 30th, 2014

Business owners – big and small – are needed asap to sign-on to all or part of the package of clean air bills being introduced by the new bi-partisan Clean Air Caucus led by Representative (and Clean Air Super Hero), Patrice Arent.

Please contact supermoms@utahmomsforcleanair. org to be added to the list of forward-thinking companies that know that clean air is good economics. When support is needed, you will be contacted to sign on to specific bills and/or to speak on their behalf.

Two bills, in particular, HB19 and HB38 are moving forward:

HB 19 – Electric Vehicle Battery Charging Service Amendments
HB 38 – Sustainability Amendments

Two bills, in particular, HB19 and HB38 are moving forward:

HB 19 – Electric Vehicle Battery Charging Service Amendments
HB 38 – Sustainability Amendments

The bills are available on the legislature’s website:

TOGETHER our voices united will make a difference, but we must all speak out.

To read more about the new bipartsan Clean Air Caucus visit

Standard Net

Deseret News


Recommended Masks & Air Purifiers for Bad Air Days in Utah

January 28th, 2014

Utah Moms for Clean Air
Recommended Masks & Air Purifiers

Utah Moms for Clean Air is working diligently to create real change and clean air for Utah – but in the meantime we need to protect our families and ourselves from our chronic dirty air. Thus, we provide this list of masks and home air filtration products as a temporary fix to a problem that must be solved in the long-term.


The highest protection level will be found in masks that are rated N95-N-99. This describes the level filtration of the most harmful particulate matter (fine particles described by the designation PM 2.5).

N95 therefore indicates a filtration of 95% of such air pollutants, N99, 99%. The most common and available masks across all mask manufacturers is N95.There are many masks on the market in the $20-$30 range which will protect both children and adults from Utah’s air pollution. All masks available for sale directly from the manufacturers websites, locally and

Recommended N95 (or higher) Masks for Adults:

RZ Mask: comfortable masks made of neoprene with carbon air filtration. Particularly suitable for athletes while running or cycling.

The RZ mask is available locally at:
Salt Lake Running Company, 700 East, 2454 South, Salt Lake City, UT. (801) 484-9144
Wasatch Touring Company 702 East, 100 South Salt Lake City, UT. 84102 (801) 359-9361
Vogmask : offering a wide selection of masks which are comfortable and come in many attractive designs. They are suitable for adults and would also be comfortable for those with sensitive skin including the elderly.

Respro : carries a wide variety of masks for athletic use as well as everyday air pollution protection.

3M : produces a wide variety of disposable N95 masks – an affordable option for those with asthma or other lung issues.

Recommended Masks (rated N95 or higher) for Infants, Children and Adolescents:

Vogmask: providing the widest age range protection in four age brackets – infants (0-2yrs), young children (3-7yrs), older children (8-12) and teenagers (13yrs old and up)

3M: the 1860s model disposable mask will fit elementary age children, middle schoolers and younger teenagers.

RZ Mask: sells a “youth” version designed for those weighing 120lbs or under.


There are many products available to help create a cleaner indoor air environment to help combat the negative effects of Utah’s air pollution. These range from small portable room air purifiers which filter the air in individual rooms of a house or apartment to whole-house air purification installations.

Air Purifiers for Individual Rooms:

Three consistently top rated room purifiers are those made by IQ Air (, Blue Air ( and the Rabbit Air ( They are also at the top of the price range – from approximately $300 – $1100. These are available for sale also on

If you buy a medical grade air filter, you can deduct is from your taxes as a medical device.

Whole House Air Purification Systems:

Whole house air purification systems can be installed in your home by local companies including:

Main Street Heating and Cooling

Welch Heating and Air

A final indoor air quality tip: Remember to frequently change the filters in your furnace and central air systems.

This list is a work in progress so please share your info tips and recommendations with us.

Together we can work to provide better environments for our own health in our homes and outdoors while we work to clean Utah’s air!

Visit us on Facebook and at

* The powerful photo above was taken by Austen Diamond and other similar photos can be seen on his blog,

Historic “Clean Air – No Excuses” Rally in Utah

January 26th, 2014

Something AMAZING happened today and it involved about 5,000 people.

Mothers, babies, teenagers, grannies, doctors, engineers, accountants, teachers, plumbers, duck hunters, small business owners, nurses, students, professors, lawyers, priests, bus drivers, dentists, social workers and others converged on the steps of the Utah State Capitol at noon united in their call for immediate and bold government action on Utah’s growing air pollution problem. The rally smartly titled Clean Air – NO Excuses comes on the heels of an opinion piece written by Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) about how Mexico City successfully took aggressive action to clean-up their notoriously bad air. “If Mexico can do it, so can Utah” became one of the rallying cries uniting the crowd.

Dr. Brian Moench led the way to this historic rally by setting a high bar last month – he said “I want a rally with at least a 2,000 people” and while some of us balked at this lofty goal, we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and said Let’s do it!

And we did.

UPHE along with Carl Ingwell/CleanAirNow, Tim Wagner/Sierra Club, Matt Pacenza/HEAL Utah and Utah Moms for Clean Air pulled together not only 2,000 people, but close to 5,000, making yesterday’s rally historic – and national news.

Legendary T.V. anchor, Dick Nourse, musicians (Tom Bennett with Salt Sweet Records and the Saliva Sisters) also offered their talents, the Lewis Group bus company donated a free shuttle bus and driver, UTA extended their service and sound engineers donated their time while the First Unitarian Church loaned us their podium.

The public also responded beautifully by demonstrating a personal commitment to clean air by packing TRAX, buses and pavement with feet, bikes and colorful posters! It was quite extraordinary to watch about 5,000 people converge on Capitol Hill over an hour period and yet see so few cars!

Yes, Utah citizens are committed to cleaning up Utah’s air. They are willing to make personal sacrifices and they want more than anything to be supported by Governor Herbert and the Utah legislature as well as by city mayors and councils. Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, who spoke at the rally, reiterated what he said earlier this month in his powerful State of City Address – We need Utah politicians to LEAD, FOLLOW or GET OUT OF THE WAY. The 5,000 people at yesterday`s Clean Air – NO Excuses rally could not agree more.

To read some of the media coverage of the historic CLEAN AIR – NO EXCUSES RALLY visit:

Great Video Footage at Standard Examiner, Plus Slideshow

Salt Lake Tribune

Deseret News

ABC News


Photogallery from SLC Photographer, Sallie Shatz


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