During a winter riddled with severe inversions marked by a high number of red air days, air quality has been an issue in the spotlight. Today, Ryan Evans, the Chamber’s vice president of business and community relations, spoke during a news conference with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. He expressed the business community’s position on clean air.
Clean air is important to the Utah Business Community and to our state economy. Poor air quality impacts the health of our employees, hinders corporate recruitment efforts, and places federal highway funding at risk. Having poor air also impacts Utah’s tourism industry, one of our largest, and potentially subjects Utah businesses to increased regulatory burdens. It is important we protect our reputation as being the best state in the nation for business.
The Salt Lake Chamber applauds the mayors here today and others who have implemented measures to improve air quality within their communities. We also applaud the efforts of Governor Herbert, who has worked very hard to engage in this conversation and initiate steps to improve our air quality. We applaud the Legislature, as well, for their willingness to look at air quality as an economic development issue. And, I would also like to applaud the many business leaders throughout our community who have addressed this issue head-on. Their active role in improving our air quality has resulted in significant reductions in emissions. Businesses are committed to doing even more to improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Clean air is a shared public resource. All across our state, we must work together to improve our air quality. Individual communities and the state as a whole play an important role and we need to work together to address this issue. We all share the responsibility to change our own behavior to improve air quality. We are making progress. Overall, our air is cleaner now than it has been in decades, but the spikes during inversions must be addressed.
Improving our air quality will require a combination of many efforts- both easy and difficult. Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this issue. Today’s announcement includes a list of potential remedies. While we do not have consensus from business leaders about the right remedies and policy steps, we want to be part of the conversation, and we will continue to support and provide leadership on this important issue.
Please see our public policy pages for clean air, where the Chamber’s principles and policies are outlined. Here is a list of the suggestions from a variety of stakeholders brought up by the mayors at the press conference:
1. Provide additional transit funding by implementing an increase in the local-option sales tax; or by increasing the gas tax to provide more road funds and requiring a proportion of the general fund money available to go to transit; or amending the state constitution so additional gas tax revenues can go directly to transit.
2. Repeal state law prohibiting Utah from setting air quality standards that are higher than federal regulations. We have unique local geographic conditions that require locally tailored approaches.
3. Extend tax credits for clean fuel and electric vehicles, and support funding for natural gas infrastructure (like fueling locations).
4. Change state vehicle registration fee schedule to a mileage-based system.
5. Devote additional financial resources to conduct widespread educational campaigns on causes of our poor air quality, the health effects and solutions to improve it.
Here is a link to the Salt Lake Tribune for broader coverage of the event: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/55833397-90/lake-salt-mayors-pollution.html.csp