Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

Coming up for air

Feb 02, 2024 09:15AM ● By Peri Kinder

For a state run by legislators who sneer at tobacco products, I find it confusing they don’t give a flying cigar about our state’s dangerous air quality. GOP legislators balk at green energy initiatives like a vampire facing the sunrise and a head of garlic.

A 2023 American Lung Association report said Salt Lake ranks among the nation’s most polluted cities for ozone and short-term particle pollution. I don’t know what those words mean, but it doesn’t sound good.

Lawmakers say Salt Lake has always dealt with inversions, we just have to work around a valley filled with pollution. That’s like saying the kitchen’s always been filled with rotting banana peels, crushed egg shells, open yogurt containers veiled in mold, and a greasy chicken carcass. We just have to work around it. 

Studies show polluted air is a bigger threat to our health than alcohol or tobacco. Maybe not breathing polluted air should be included in the Word of Wisdom next to wine (the devil’s fancy beverage) and tea (the witch’s drink). Then, perhaps, our lawmakers will pay attention.

It’s true the valley’s design creates Utah’s crappy air quality. Temperature inversions trap cold air under a layer of warm air, like putting a lid on a pot of soup. Only this soup is filled with vehicle pollution, smoke from wood burning stoves, industrial emissions, and glitter from gender reveal parties. 

Reducing the number of cars using fossil fuels is a good way to cut down on emissions but “leaders” like illustrious Sen. Mike Lee often fight against renewable fuel programs. And don’t talk about closing coal-fired power plants. Republican lawmakers embrace coal energy like it was brought down from Mount Sinai. 

While other states are running away from coal as fast as humanly possible, Utah lawmakers delay closing coal power plants that leave behind tons of coal ash, a lovely bouquet of radioactive waste, arsenic and old lace. 

Utah has around a dozen coal ash dump sites and you can bet your sooty lungs each site contributes to our bad air quality. Oh, don’t our legislators wish it was still the 1970s, when coal was king, and you could use your wood stove all day (even in the summer) and no one was trying to take your gas-operated vehicle?

In good news, some electric vehicle owners were given a Utah tax break through 2030 (although it diminishes each year) and there’s a rebate for EV charging stations. 

But (classic legislature) EV owners have to pay an additional registration fee each year to offset the gas taxes they don’t pay. And a bill passed in 2023 adds a third tax at EV charging stations, on top of sales and franchise taxes. It’s like being caressed with one hand and punched in the nose with the other. 

Utah has the potential for vast amounts of solar, wind and geothermal energy, so why can’t we address the continued yuckiness in our atmosphere? 

I know. Money. The answer is always money. But it’s at the expense of our health, especially low-income populations, minorities and children who live near higher-polluted areas. It must be a coincidence that these children have higher rates of respiratory illnesses. Yeah, just a concidence.

I know we’re not supposed to compromise anymore, and we’re not supposed to believe science and doctors, and we’re not supposed to believe in climate change or coal pollution. And I know we’re supposed to trust the Utah legislature with our lives. But, that might be the problem