This week marks the beginning of the 2017 General Legislative Session and as such, discussing important issues to look for and be aware of is critical for businesses to get involved and understand how these various issues affect our state’s economy. One of the most visible legislative issues on the Hill is Utah’s air quality. Over the past several years, the legislature has taken action on important air quality legislation to ensure a healthy workforce, more public awareness and research, increased transportation options to reduce emissions, and support for cleaner vehicles and fuels. We applaud these efforts and acknowledge the important and difficult decisions still ahead with regard to our air quality.

To assist your business as you engage in these issues, we’ve listed our clean air policy priorities and a few general air quality topics that are most likely to be addressed through a bill or discussed during the session.

Cleaner Vehicles and Fuels:

The use of clean vehicles and fuels can help reduce mobile emissions–the largest source of Utah’s air quality challenges. The Chamber supports incentives to convert state, commercial, transit and private sector fleets to cleaner vehicles, and the necessary fuel and support infrastructure. This includes accelerated implementation of the Tier-3 Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Standards Program and other alternative fuels. H.B. 29 Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments sponsored by Rep. Handy passed through the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee. This bill seeks to extend Utah’s existing energy efficient vehicle tax credits through 2021 and maintain current incentive levels.  Additional discussion regarding this and other bills addressing clean fuels and vehicles is expected throughout the general session.

Transportation:

Transportation is a policy issue at the forefront of discussion during the general session. Because we know mobile emissions are a large producer of air pollution, funding public transportation can make a difference in reducing emissions and keeping our air clean.  The Chamber supports transportation investments that improve our transit systems and active transportation infrastructure. For example, upgrading UTA buses and trains or increasing SLC GreenBike accessibility will take more people off the roads, reduce emissions and help to eliminate idling on Utah’s roadways.

Area Sources:

Area sources, such as homes, commercial buildings and businesses, are one of the three main contributors to local air pollution. From 2008 to 2014, The Utah Division of Air Quality reported a 7% increase in area source contributions while vehicle contributions decreased by 9%. Furthermore, Envision Utah projects that by 2050, homes and businesses will replace vehicles as the primary source of pollution at 63% while vehicle emissions will reduce to 24%. In order to reduce emissions, businesses will need to work together to reduce their energy consumption while also boosting their building’s energy performance. As area sources become a greater contributor to our emissions inventory, the Chamber supports efforts to raise public awareness of building energy performance.

Federal Air Quality Standards Compliance:

Currently, there are several regions of the state that do not meet federal air quality standards. Although there are many reasons and even differing opinions as to why this is the case, it is clear something must be done to ensure our state meets these standards to receive necessary federal funding. The Chamber’s policy position on this issue is that air quality issues must be addressed while minimizing the cost to businesses and consumers. Utah must meet current federal air quality standards. Without action, we may lose federal highway funding, garner additional regulatory burdens and impair economic development and corporate recruitment. Discussion surrounding federal air quality standards also includes federal ozone standards. The Chamber is concerned that the EPA’s lower ozone standard will disproportionately impact the Intermountain West due to high levels of “background ozone”. This lower standard will adversely affect our state’s economy without a clear impact on societal health. The Chamber remains committed to actively engaging in the stakeholder process and supports efforts to clarify the rule to maximize flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Businesses can expect legislation and discussion to address these complex issues.

Your business doesn’t have to advocate at the capitol to be involved and educated in air quality issues. One of the simplest ways you can help show the collective impact of Utah’s business community is by joining the Chamber’s Clean Air Champions program. Commit your business and employees to clean air strategies, help keep our air clean and receive recognition from your business peers as well as updates on air quality related issues over the coming weeks. Visit cleanairchampion.com for more information.

If you would like to read the Chamber’s policy principles, positions and priorities in full, read our Public Policy Guide available at slchamber.com/2017-public-policy-guide.