- 2015 Session
- No comments
On Air Quality
By Pete Knudson
Utah State Senator, District 17
On Monday, SB 87, a much heralded air quality bill, was voted down in the Senate. Since then, many senators, including myself, have received a barrage of emails from disappointed and sometimes angry constituents. Many feel that our vote against SB 87 defies all explanation. This is due to some misunderstanding about what SB 87 would have done.
The main misunderstanding is that Utah’s Air Quality Board is unable to address our unique pollution problems because current law doesn’t allow the Board to pass regulations that are stricter than federal standards. Many believe that SB 87 would have removed this limitation and better empowered the Air Quality Board.
After responding to a particularly upset constituent, I decided to share my response on the Senate website in an effort to clear up some of the misunderstanding surrounding this bill.
Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate you sharing your concerns about my vote against SB 87. The information below should clarify why I voted the way I did. Furthermore, I have included some information on a similar bill, HB 226, an air quality measure that I think better addresses Utah’s pollution problems. Hopefully this information helps you to better understand why I voted the way I did.
First, what many do not know is that the Air Quality Board already has the power to produce regulations that are stricter than Federal standards. Under current law, the board may create these stricter standards if the board finds that “federal regulations are not adequate to protect public health and the environment of the state.” Such findings must also include a “public comment period” and be based on the “evidence in the record.” So, if these requirements can be met, then current law already allows the Air Quality Board to produce stricter standards for Utah. However, the reason so many people adamantly favor SB 87 is because they believe that the Air Quality Board does not have the authority to pass regulations which are more stringent than federal regulations. According to the current law found below, this assertion is patently false.
Current Law: Title 19, Chapter 2, Section 106
SB 87 would repeal the above legislation so that the Air Quality Board could pass more stringent regulations, but without requiring those regulations to be based on evidence that they are needed and without holding a period for public comment.
I do not believe that the Air Quality Board needs to circumvent the safeguards included under current law in order to pass necessary air quality regulations. This is largely why I voted against SB 87.
However, I am inclined to consider the merits of HB 226 because it specifically empowers the Air Quality Board to pass regulations that are different from federal regulations, without eliminating the requirement that such decisions be based on evidence and subject to a public hearing.
HB 226 amends the current law listed above so that it reads as follows:
Rest assured that air quality is important to all of us here on the Hill. SB 87 is only one of many air quality proposals and it is a proposal that would have been unwise to enact.
I hope this information helps clarify the issue for you. I wish you and your family the very best.