Northern Utah air quality is a moral issue. Start testing diesels

Wednesday , February 24, 2016 - 5:30 AM9 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Monday, March 23, 2015.

Does the date ring a bell? Perhaps not.

It should, however. Because on that day, the Weber-Morgan Board of Health tabled discussion of diesel emissions testing.

And by “tabled,” we mean “decided to ignore because if we stall long enough, maybe people will forget about it.”

Then a funny thing happened — a group of about 30 parents, seniors, doctors, community workers and religious leaders showed up at Monday’s health board meeting to ask for diesel emissions testing.

  • RELATED: “Weber County citizens speak in favor of diesel emissions testing”

Despite being stalled for 335 days, they didn’t forget.

In early February, Ogden endured some of the worst air pollution in the United States — and that was during “Idle-Free Week.”

A broken or disabled emissions control system allows a diesel to discharge up to 100 times the particulate emissions of a clean engine, a Davis County study found in early 2015.

Health board members knew about the research. They simply didn’t want to inconvenience commercial diesel operators.

So when the board’s own Air Quality Advisory Committee recommended a diesel testing program in March 2015, the board tried to quietly kill it.

“I’ve received many phone calls on this, (and) don’t know enough about it,” said Matt Bell, a Weber County commissioner and board member. “I’d like to take this off our agenda (to) work on it and do it another time.”

You’ve had 11 months to do something, commissioner.

“We’ve got a lot of trucks that are going to be licensed here,” said another board member, Morgan County Commissioner Logan Wilde. “We need more input.”

You’ve had 337 days to gather input, commissioner. And you’ve done nothing but contribute to another year of breathing problems and climbing health costs.

  • RELATED: “When you don't test diesels, you get air pollution that makes news”

But you asked for more input. The Utah Department of Air Quality gave you just that Feb. 10, at the height of the inversion, when it presented data showing that diesels emit 44 percent of Utah’s on-road NOx emissions — the compounds that coalesce as particulate pollution and fuel inversions.

The DAQ shared its newest findings with the Weber-Morgan Health Department Air Quality Advisory Committee. Eleven months ago, the same committee recommended a diesel emissions testing program.

What’s your excuse now?

The 30 people who showed up at your meeting Monday understand something about air quality you fail to grasp: This is a moral issue.

“The air quality in our counties is a health issue, but it’s also a justice issue,” said the Rev. Gage Church of Ogden’s United Church of Christ. “It’s a justice issue for folks who can’t get away for vacation during bad air days, or who don’t have the means to go up to Snowbasin to get away for the day when the air is (bad).”

The Weber-Morgan Board of Health should be dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone it serves — even if they don’t drive diesels.

Do the right thing for the environment and the economy. Do the moral thing.

Implement a diesel emissions testing program.

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