SALT LAKE CITY -- Spurred by the presence of the first inversion of the fall last week, Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, wants to fast-track funding for a public awareness campaign to help residents learn how they can keep Utah's air clean.
During a lively meeting of an economic development task force last week, Dee used a section of the task force's findings and recommendations to push for immediate funding for the campaign in conjunction with the governor's office, the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) and Envision Utah. The latter has been asked to oversee a clean-air task force.
Dee said his angst about timing was spurred by the first inversion of the season last week.
"I want to work on a program now. ... I want it to happen now. I want it to be an effort of the governor's office, and I want it to be an effort of the Legislature," he said.
"We're not going to wait until July 1 to wait for the governor to sign something somewhere and hand out pens (action associated with signing legislation). I want to have something happening now."
Dee thinks the Legislature can find existing funds to help push the awareness program. He said he has been talking to the governor's office about how to get that going.
He said he has also spoken to some Senate leaders about funding the program. As one of the key leaders in the House, Dee said he would work with House members to move the program ahead -- now.
Dee's recommendation and proposal came up in a committee and will require legislative approval. Dee said the governor's office may need to provide some sort of bridge loan before the Legislature can meet and approve the appropriation.
The task force addressed seven specific areas: air quality; infrastructure; tourism; education and workforce development; manufacturing; business regulations and incentives; and general economic development.
Dee's proposal was generally well received, but Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, worried many people have a false sense about air quality today, in comparison to where it was 10 years ago. He wants to make sure any messaging isn't all geared from the basis of a negative.
Reid said the air quality today is better than it has been and will likely improve because of new federal standards. He said there has been a lot of negative messaging about the state's air quality that is not factual.
"There has been a lot of propaganda and, from my perspective, fearmongering. Fearmongering is worse than the reality when you're trying to recruit business to the state."
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, disagrees with Reid's assessment.
"I appreciate that we don't want to go overboard on anything. This is not crying wolf. Perhaps it would have been worse than it is now if we hadn't started taking some efforts," he said.
"The fact is, what Representative Dee saw yesterday (the inversion) is what others see. I wouldn't walk away and say all of us believe it is fearmongering. I happen to disagree with that strongly."
Reid didn't back off.
"My issue has been that we're not being truthful. The inversion has been with us and has always been there and will always be there. There is less particulate matter in that inversion and less pollution than there was 10 years ago," he said.
"When we keep this rhetoric up, we deceive people. The herd (public perception) is running in your direction that our air quality is worse than it was; that's not factually correct."
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, supports both Reid's and Jones' assessments.
"Our air quality is better now than it was, but I think if there are opportunities to improve, we should take advantage of them," he said.
Gov. Gary Herbert used a recent news conference to urge residents to do little things to limit emissions for the coming season. He encouraged residents to look at www.ucair.org for details on how to help clean the air.