Sen. Escamilla leads with clean air bills; Sen. Iwamonto leaps in for the save.

January 29th, 2016

Yesterday Senator Escamilla brought her two bills SB 49 and SB 66 to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  SB 49 which would have increased the statute of limitations on prosecuting violators of air quality rules from one year to five years, was amended to a two year statute of limitations, and passed on to the full Senate.  The issue arose because DAQ doesn’t have the staff to check polluters every single year. They can get through all the required checks in about 3 and a half years.  So a one year statute of limitations really doesn’t make any sense at all.  That’s like filling out your taxes, knowing that you can only possibly be audited every third year, and that no one can come after you for cheating in the two off years.

Utah Moms For Clean Air testified that this legislation gave the DAQ the tools it needed to do its important job – the job of “safeguarding human health and quality of life…” Did you know that’s actually the broad mission of the Department of Environmental Quality? This bill also sends a message that Utah’s air quality laws are to be taken seriously and that no one will be given a pass for breaking those laws.

The bill originally failed with Senators Knudson, Jenkins, Dayton, and Christensen voting NO and Senators Vickers, Iwamoto, and Shiozawa voting YES (thank you to those senators!)

Interestingly, the committee went on to the next agenda item, and after that Senator Iwamoto raised a motion to go back and amend SB49, even though it had already failed. There was some question as to whether that was proper form, but ultimately Senator Iwamoto’s motion passed, the bill was amended to a two year statute of limitations, and passed the committee with only Senator Dayton clinging to her NO vote.

This bill will be heard soon on the Senate floor – possibly Friday, maybe Monday – so PLEASE e-mail your Senator (and several others!) to support SB 49! And maybe send a thank you to Senators Knudson, Jenkins, Christensen, Vickers, Shiozawa, and Iwamoto for passing the amended version.

Two clear leaders: Senator Escamilla for sponsoring this legislation and Senator Iwamoto for bringing the bill back from the brink! I will note too that in addition to voting NO, Senator Dayton also took the opportunity during the proceedings to call the EPA “unconstitutional.” This is a view that simply needs to get out of the way. Feelings about the federal EPA are surely not relevant to the evaluation of two Utah clean air bills. Also, Utah County, which the Senator represents, sometimes has worse smog than Salt Lake County. Let’s leave our feelings about the EPA at the door, and get to solving the problem!

Senator Escamilla’s other bill would raise the fines we can levy against clean air law breakers. These fines haven’t changed since 1981. This bill increased the fines with inflation. In the end, Senator Vickers motioned to have the bill tabled pending more work on the numbers. We hope the bill will be brought back soon.

While the Senators consider this bill further, let me ask one favor:

If I get a speeding ticket, can I opt to pay the 1981 fine?

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