Lawmakers to consider 2 dozen measures to improve air quality in upcoming session

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SALT LAKE CITY — The state legislature on Thursday revealed $28 million worth of proposals designed to improve air quality.

Lawmakers are considering two dozen measures, The Deseret News ( reports. Those include proposals to spend $20 million to upgrade to clean-fuel school buses, providing transit passes to state workers and funding research to identify and control pollutants.

Although the legislature last year passed more clean air bills and appropriated more money to improve air quality than they had over the previous decade combined, there is still more to do, according to Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek and co-chairwoman of the Clean Air Caucus.

She said the state has limited resources and will have to prioritize legislation based on its cost effectiveness.

Other proposals unveiled Thursday include tax incentives for alternative fuel trucks, stronger penalties for illegal burning, three new air quality compliance employees and incentives for replacing pollution-emitting equipment in homes and small businesses.

The most expensive of the air quality proposals is one from Rep. Steve Handy, R-Davis County, which would create a grant program in the Utah Office of Education that would provide matching funds to school districts replacing their aging buses. It would also build a publicly accessible alternative fueling station and a shop equipped to service and maintain the new buses. The bill was originally proposed last year.

"This is not a silver bullet, but it gets the momentum started," said Handy, who said the bill would replace more than 450 diesel buses made before 2002. The House Transportation Committee provided a favorable recommendation to Handy's bill, which will now go to the House floor.

Gov. Gary Herbert praised Handy's efforts to reintroduce the bill during his State of the State speech Wednesday and made note of the eight clean air bills he signed into law last session.

The state has also allocated $1.3 million in grant money to a program that helps small businesses cut emissions.

"I think there is a great space between good stewards of the environment and not hurting the economy or making an enemy of our industry here in Utah," said House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

Information from: Deseret News,

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