As a concerned resident, I am doing everything I can to reduce emissions on red air days. We’ve lowered our thermostat and don’t burn wood on red air days. We drive a low emission vehicle, carpool, bike, or take mass transit, and pool all our trips.
But, with apologies to Governor Herbert and Rep. Brad Dee, I must take issue with some of the numbers being used to describe the sources of pollution that affect us all during the winter inversions (Feb. 17 guest commentary, “Real solution to air quality”). The Utah Department of Air Quality, along with the governor and Rep. Dee, report that vehicle emissions represent 57 percent of the inversion pollution, with industry accounting for only 11 percent. Drive less, they tell us, and do your part.
However, automobiles are not the largest source of PM 2.5 emissions along the Wasatch Front. According to the DAQ 2012 Annual Report, on-road emissions account for only 13 percent of PM 2.5 sources (see figure on page 22 of the report, available at the DAQ web site). Industry point sources account for 24 percent, and other area sources account for 49 percent of PM 2.5 emissions. Remember, the red air action alerts are measured by the amount of PM 2.5 in the air. PM 2.5 also contributes the most to the health risks on red air days.
To suggest that industry only contributes 11 percent to the pollution problem during inversions is disingenuous at best. Kennecott’s operation alone accounts for over 66 percent of PM 2.5 emissions in Salt Lake County.
We may be at the mercy of our geography, but nobody is forcing us to operate refineries and open pit mines on red air days. If you are going to use data to ban wood burning and ask us to drive less, please use data to, at the very least, ask industries to not operate these point sources on red air days.