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Guest opinion: Legislative efforts at state, federal levels working to promote cleaner air for Utah

By Rep. Steve Waldrip - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 19, 2022

Photo supplied, Utah House

Rep. Steve Waldrip, a Republican from Eden

Utah continues to advance a range of energy efficiency initiatives and clean-energy technology solutions that are helping to improve air quality in our state and protect the long-term health and vitality of our residents and communities. Importantly, this has been an effort that has unfolded at both the state and federal levels — with the work we are doing in the state Legislature both complementing and enhancing the important efforts that Sen. Mitt Romney has helped lead in Congress.

In the last legislative session, Utah Senate Majority Whip Kirk Cullimore and I sponsored SB 188, energy efficiency and clean-fuel legislation. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Cox in late March, will expand Utah’s access to federal competitive grants and incentives that will help people implement clean-energy and energy efficiency upgrades and improvements in their homes more affordably.

This legislation will make it possible for Utah to accept federal funds — such as the ones that have just recently been made available through passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Congress — in order to continue addressing our air quality concerns by reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency. These efforts include funding for businesses to invest in lower-emissions vehicles or vehicle fleets as well as for households to install energy-efficient improvements like spray foam insulation to reduce energy waste and lower costs.

Additionally, SB 188 expands opportunities for low-income Utah individuals and families to qualify for and receive grants that will help cover the cost of replacing their old, wood-burning fireplaces and appliances with more energy-efficient, cleaner ones. The legislation also creates a revolving loan fund so the money doesn’t dry up quickly. All of these initiatives will enable us to further reduce emissions in order to continue building on the clean air momentum we have experienced in recent years.

Importantly, this has been a collaborative effort of not just Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature, but also a broad range of stakeholder groups, clean air advocates and industry associations. These include the Utah Clean Air Partnership and o2 Utah, tech companies DOMO and Lumio from Utah’s Silicon Slopes, and the major trade associations representing Utah’s mining, petroleum and manufacturing industries.

Our work to get this legislation across the finish line reflects the very real concerns Utahns have when it comes to the importance and value of clean air. SB 188 clears the way for Utah to accept federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and apply them to the clean air and energy efficiency priorities that will help us address those concerns and ensure we are leaving behind cleaner air — not to mention water and land — for future generations of Utahns to enjoy.

Of course, that’s only half the picture. Last year’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the other half. That historic, bipartisan bill helped pave the way (pun intended) for much-needed investments in repairing, maintaining and upgrading America’s roads, bridges and highways, as well as addressing a range of infrastructure priorities, from expanding broadband to ensuring clean drinking water to modernizing our entire energy infrastructure.

The investments that the federal bill makes in expanding clean energy and energy efficiency are particularly critical for Utah as we continue to prioritize and work to put an economic value on air quality. As a legislator in his last year of service, I am grateful to Sen. Romney for continuing to work across the aisle in order to ensure Utah has the tools it needs to address some of our most pressing issues. His work on infrastructure, in combination with our efforts in the state Legislature, is helping to secure a brighter, cleaner future for Utah communities.

Steve Waldrip is the outgoing representative for House District 8, representing parts of Weber County in the Utah Legislature.

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