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January 25th, 2016

Speaker Hughes: Eliminate Red Air Days

On the first day of the legislative session, leadership talked the talk. Now will they walk the walk?

Both President Niederhauser (R – Salt Lake) and Speaker Hughes (R – Salt Lake) noted the need for improved air quality as a priority for Utah. President Niederhauser told his fellow senators that with Utah facing a doubling in population clean air and clean water will be “vital.” Continuing, he said, “It is our nature to address these things tomorrow, and I hope we have the vision and courage to address these issues now.” In the House, Speaker Hughes spoke about air quality at length, telling his fellow representatives that Utah has significantly decreased emissions in the past 10 years, but that this reduction didn’t happen on its own, it happened because of work done in the state to address the problem. He stated that population density and geography have led to poor air quality, and that its a problem that will worsen without attention. Most strikingly, he suggested putting “a stake in the ground, right now” to make it a goal to eliminate red air days in Utah. An exciting goal, although Utah Moms For Clean Air might remind the Speaker that orange and yellow air days aren’t anything to be proud of either, and that negative health effects arise from even low-level exposure.  Let it also be noted that while we may have reduced emissions, the 2015 State of the Air report from the American Lung Association still gave Salt Lake City a failing grade.

Neither leader offered any specifics about how they intend to work toward cleaner air, although Speaker Hughes noted the importance of giving the DAQ the tools it needs for monitoring and study. It is, however, encouraging to hear both men set the tone of the session off right. As specific bills are debated, it remains to be seen how serious either leader is about improving air quality. Utah Moms For Clean Air will be listening to the debates and noting the votes. It will take more than encouraging words to clean our air. It will take more than lofty goals to keep our kids healthy. We will be waiting to see who will LEAD in action.

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