(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City – It was difficult to find an environmental group that wasn’t involved in some way, shape or form last weekend in the “Clean Air, No Excuses” Rally held on a sunny and relatively clear, low smog day at the Utah State Capitol.
The warm and half-clear winter day offered a figurative breath of fresh air for citizens and protestors to let their feelings of outrage fly, in the midst of what has been another deadly and dangerous “red air day” riddled inversion season along the Wasatch Front.
The event was organized by the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), in concert with Utah Moms for Clean Air, HEAL Utah, the Sierra Club, and the Facebook groups Clean Air Now, Communities for Clean Air, and Utah CleanAir. To the amazement of many, by the time the day was done the event had turned out to be the single largest environmental rally in Utah history and the largest air-pollution-specific event in U.S. history according to research conducted at local EnviroNews Utah.
Utah’s air pollution crisis has, once again this year, crippled the health and wellbeing of desperate citizens along the Wasatch Front, and has been the responsible culprit in thousands of doctors’ office and emergency room visits.
Republican Governor Gary Herbert, in unison with many Republican legislators, has reiterated an interesting THEORY over and over and over again throughout the past several years, as public pressure and disgruntlement over the pollution quandary have been escalating. The theory they share: ‘Utah’s air quality has actually been improving over the past decade!’ Interestingly though, these same Republicans on the Hill seem to be the only group of people in the state that embrace and propagate this unique, almost cult-like belief, leaving many to wonder just what special air these politicians and their families are breathing.
Many of Utah’s environmental groups have been at wits’ end over the governor’s and legislature’s complacency surrounding the issue, and many of these same parties have been outraged by the Utah Department of Air Quality’s (DAQ) issuance of massive pollution permit expansions to companies like Rio Tinto-owned mining giant Kennecott Utah Copper (the single largest polluter in the state), in addition to bigger permits for three of the five oil refineries along the Wasatch Front.
It was in part, these end-of-the-rope sentiments that led to nearly all of the environmental groups in the state converging down on the Capitol last Saturday. In addition to the key players and organizers mentioned above, we saw appearances from Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, Western Resource Advocates and others, but this time around, there was a new group at the podium — with a new angle to share — and a new walk of life to represent.
Amanda Batty of the newly formed Athletes for Clean Air took to the podium alongside Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air to read the contents of an ongoing petition that demands many immediate reforms to Utah air policy. Batty is a professional mountain biker, and alongside Tony Pavlantos, has formed the group in an effort to pressure Utah politicians to get tough on industrial polluters.
The group was established to create an active voice for athletes, both professional and non, as well as health and fitness trainers, and general air quality enthusiasts alike.
“Stop making Utah the dirty energy capitol of the US” said Batty, as she laid down the list of demands contained within the petition to a crowd of approximately 5,000. Now, following the monumental rally, citizens are looking on with great concern and anticipation, watching and waiting to see if Utah’s Governor and legislature will heed the warnings of protestors who have threatened to throw them out of office if they do not do what is necessary to quickly improve the situation. Will these same political figures just offer up more lip service, or will they actually step up to the plate and take drastic measures, unlike years past, in a genuine effort to clean Utah’s deadly air?
The petition being promoted here, can be found online through this link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/utah-clean-air-no-excuses?source=c.em.cp&r_by=1872730