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Utah lawmakers consider clean air proposals as inversion settles in Wasatch Front

(KUTV) Several proposals aimed at improving air quality are heading to lawmakers this week.

At the city level, Mayor Jackie Biskupski proposed an energy efficiency and air quality ordinance to Salt Lake City Council for their consideration Tuesday.

The proposed market-based ordinance would eliminate over 98 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City’s air each year by phasing-in new requirements for buildings over 25,000 square feet to “benchmark” their energy usage annually, using the EPA’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software, followed by energy “tune-ups” for low-performing buildings.

Bench marking allows building owners and managers to identify if their buildings are good candidates for efficiency improvements to reduce energy waste — and therefore air pollution.

“This is a market-based approach,” said Biskupski. “It’s very similar to a fuel economy rating on cars. Creating transparency around buildings’ energy performance enables tenants, as well as building owners and managers, to prioritize efficiency, and promotes the more efficient buildings across the city.”

Certain buildings with lower energy scores that are also eligible for utility-sponsored energy efficiency incentives would then be required to “tune-up” building energy systems under the ordinance — which means optimizing a building’s systems -- i.e. scheduling lights to turn off when people leave the building or re-programming HVAC systems to avoid simultaneous heating and cooling. The ordinance does not require more costly upgrades or replacement of building energy systems allowing owners to voluntarily choose to invest in energy efficiency.

Looking ahead to the 2017 legislative session, HEAL Utah hosted a multi-agency presentation in which the group discussed upcoming bills and a proposal.

The 19-point proposal is a blueprint with suggestions to improve air quality overall and as it pertains to vehicles, buildings, and industry.

“Ultimately, it’s in everybody’s best interest to embrace some common sense long-term solutions so that we can enjoy a healthy, thriving economy and community for the long haul,” said HEAL Utah spokesperson Matt Pacenza.

HEAL Utah’s policy advisor, Ashley Soltysiak, discussed the emission testing amendment, which sets forth a baseline testing requirement for late to medium duty diesels for vehicles in counties that already have an existing emissions testing program.

“Utah County, for example, does not include diesel vehicles in their testing program. And by enacting this legislation, we would capture an additional 20,000 vehicles in that county, alone, that would require testing,” she said.

Utah County and Weber County would be most affected by the amendment.

“Diesel vehicles can be some of the most polluting vehicles on the roads when they fall out of compliance,” said Soltysiak. “They can be four times that of a compliant diesel vehicle. And seven - eight times that of an average gasoline powered vehicle. So this will be an important and major priority for air quality in the coming session.”

Another proposal would replace antiquated school buses with better-performing, lower-emission vehicles.

“Children bear the brunt of the buses they’re riding on. And this is the time and we hope this is the year that we finally replace all of those old buses,” said Sigmund. “Citizens and legislators alike, we’re going to keep it a top priority.”

The 2017 Legislative Session starts Monday, January 23rd.

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