SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Our active weather pattern helps us battle long stretches of inversion, and now legislators are joining in on the fight against dirty air.
There are dozens of air quality bills proposed this legislative session, totaling about $109 million. Two bills unanimously passed committee Wednesday and are headed to the full House for consideration.
“We’re really trying to find those air quality solutions that give us the biggest bang for our buck,” Representative Timothy Hawkes, (R-Centerville) said Wednesday.
Representative Hawkes is backing a bill that provides resources to people so they can convert wood-burning fireplaces to gas or electric units. Hawkes says many people can’t afford to make the switch, and this bill is a way to help cover the costs.
“It’s still about 15 percent of our average particulate emissions during the winter time. Even though not that many people are doing it, it is still a big problem,” said Hawkes.
The bill is asking for $14 million with the money helping pay for wood stove conversions with a priority for those not able to afford it, and for people living in areas where particulate matter spikes during the winter.
“The reality is we will take what we can get and put it in this program, and it should have a direct and immediate effect on our air quality for the better,” said Hawkes.
The other bill headed to the House for consideration involves free mass transit days. The bill proposes $1.2 million for 17 free fare days when our air quality reaches the orange category. The orange category is “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” and the bill is an effort to reduce the number of red air quality days.
“I’m just saying an incentive can help people for a few days change their behavior during a bad inversion,” said Representative Joel Briscoe, (D-Salt Lake City).
The money for the bill covers UTA costs on the free fare days, and they could be sponsored by businesses. For example, Thursday and Friday are free fare days sponsored by Intermountain Health Care.