Some Herbert clean-air plans hit speed bump in Legislature

Feb 1 2014 - 4:36pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers want to clean up the air along the Wasatch Front but may be slow to adopt a couple of proposals Gov. Gary Herbert outlined in his immediate call to speed up the process.

In his State of the State address, Herbert called for the Air Quality Board to limit wood-burning in non-attainment areas during the inversion season, and also to accelerate a transition to tier 3 burning fuels, which are thought to be cleaner burning than what is currently used in the Beehive State.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said he can see the Legislature tackling the wood burning stove issue, but only after a very thorough study "of what is reasonable." He thinks an immediate ban on wood burning from Nov. 1 to Feb. 1 might be heavy handed.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay, has described a ban on wood burning as the last of the low hanging fruit in an effort to clean up the air.

The governor's move to tier 3 fuels also drew some concerns. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said Utahns have to determine if they want to become an island state as far as fuel products. He said shifting to a special cleaner blend of fuel -- similar to California -- would raise some issues.

"We'd not have the same kind of following in neighboring states. We presently have an intermixing fuel system," Valentine said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a phase-in approach to cleaner fuels, which are expected to be in place by 2017. Tier 3 fuels would lower the sulfur content of gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10. The fuels would require emission controls on all new vehicles.

That too poses a problem, according to Okerlund.

"If we are going to meet the new standard we're going to have to have more efficient fuels and cars. We're still not there yet," the Senate Majority leader said.

Herbert also used the speech to renew a call to replace older, less energy efficient school buses. He described his clean air initiatives as a benefit to public health as well as a benefit to local economies.

Clean air figures to be a dominant issue during the 2014 legislative session, even if lawmakers don't pass any immediate restrictions on wood-burning during the inversion season, or accelerate the move to tier 3 fuels. There are already 15 bills related to the issue, with the possibility of even more to come during the 45-day session.

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