Utah Air Quality Board Passes Insufficient Plan to Meet EPA Standards By 2019

(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City – The Air Quality Board of the Department of Air Quality (DAQ) passed its plan to meet EPA air quality standards for those areas out of compliance with a vote of 8 for, and 1 against, on Jan. 8, 2014. The lone dissenter was Robert Paine.

While proponents claim that the plan gives industry something to move forward on and that is better than nothing, critics of the State Implementation Plan (SIP), including the EPA, say that the plan doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t take effect soon enough. The EPA and many of these same critics also chastise the plan for allowing a 12 percent growth for industry, while simultaneously banking on fewer vehicle miles travelled by citizens between 2017 and 2019.

Bill Reiss of the DAQ says that the earliest that Utah could achieve attainment with all feasible solutions is 2019, and that adding in elements that are not economically feasible will not get Utah into attainment any sooner.

In what appeared to be an action to placate those that disagreed with the plan and to follow procedure, the board took comments from members of the audience, thanked them for their comments and then voted how it had likely already decided to vote.

Amanda Smith, Former Chairwoman of the Board who also cast the final and deciding yea vote in the controversial Kennecott mine expansion, spoke in what was interpreted by many as a condescending tone toward the crowd as she told them to “do your research”, citing an example that claimed Los Angeles had over 100 “dangerous air days” in 2012 while Utah had only 11.

When Kathy Van Dame reminded the Air Quality Board that it is supposed to protect the health of the people, the room fell silent. Even with that reminder, when the discussion continued, it really only addressed the minutiae of the plan.

ATK, a Virginia-based aerospace and defense company with facilities in Utah, has voluntarily agreed to reduce burning during days when the 2.5 particulate count is at 35 ppm or more. Van Dame asked if it would be possible to require them to stop burning at the 25 ppm level – the same level that private citizens are cut off at from burning wood in their stoves for heat.

HEAL Utah’s Matt Pacenza called on the Air Quality Board to go back and draft a plan that would create results now, rather than 2017, 2018, or by the time the deadline rolls around on Dec. 14, 2019. On that date, if Utah is still out of compliance, the EPA will be able to come in and lay the smack down on the state.

The board agreed to move forward with the plan only adding the provision that the DAQ look into seeing if it was feasible for ATK to reduce their burning during days when the 2.5 particle count was at 25 ppm.

With the Kennecott mine expansion and the Tesoro Refinery expansion now approved, the DAQ has already thrown its hat into the ring with big polluting business. Permits to start Tar Sands mining on the Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah have strained the credibility of the agency by allowing an activity that “almost makes regular crude refining look green.” Lionel Trepanier of Utah Tar Sands Resistance called the board a “failure… chaired by Kennecott”.

The DAQ is faced with a Sub Part 4 at the end of this year, and that could change everything. Businesses following the current SIP will not be grandfathered in for any development if it does not meet the standards of Sub Part 4 but will most likely be ahead of the curve in meeting those regulations.

Air Quality Board members are hoping that the can take advantage of Tier III fuel when it becomes available. However, it currently appears as if the cleaner burning fuel will not be available until 2020 when smaller refineries will be required to refine fuel to the Tier III standard.

Utah had a five year attainment window that was set to expire on Dec. 14, 2014, but the Clean Air Act allows an additional five years. The state chose not to meet the requirements by the end of this year, and is now faced with the hard deadline in 2019.

Utah Air Quality Board Passes Insufficient Plan to Meet EPA Standards By 2019