Thursday, September 6, 2012

Utah’s pollution-cutting plan moves on despite resistance

State regulators pressed forward Wednesday with a thick package of rules to cut winter pollution in northern Utah.

With proposals to expand auto-emissions inspections, encourage public transit and cut industrial pollution, the sweeping emissions-cutting plan would impact all those living and doing business in the state’s inversion-plagued urban areas. And that explains why one area — Cache County —already has balked at implementing a key regulation: requiring its residents to begin emissions testing on cars and trucks.

Even though the state’s air-pollution experts have been working on the plan for more than two years, it still falls short of the health-based pollution standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring states to meet by 2014. And while harmful PM 2.5 pollution will be cut significantly, regulators continue to search for still more reductions in the microscopic soot that builds up in the basins during winter inversion periods.

EPA standards allow a daily average of up to 35 micograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5 pollution in the air for no more than seven days a year, but that limit is exceeded as many as 30 times some winters. (On the other hand, the state easily meets the annual average limit of 15 micograms of PM 2.5)

In Salt Lake County, another 5 percent reduction in emissions is needed even with a five-year deadline extension to 2019. New data from fast-growing Utah County shows further reductions of more than 10 percent in emissions would be needed to meet EPA limits there. With an emissions-testing program, Cache County is expected to meet the EPA standard. Salt Lake Tribune