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KUER News and RadioWest are bringing you a series of stories and conversations on Utah's air. It's easy to look at the haze on a red air quality day and say that something needs to be done about it. But what? We'll be talking about the roles that individuals, industry and government can play in cleaning up Utah's air quality. We'll also look at what the costs may to be to our economy and our health if we don't.

Two Air Quality Bills Moving Through Legislature

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With the last week of the Legislative session underway, lawmakers approved two bills in the Senate and House yesterday geared toward improving the region’s air quality.  

In the Utah Senate, lawmakers approved SB 275, which would local government agencies to borrow money to buy new vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas or convert current fleet vehicles.  The bill would mandate a study by the Public Service Commission on how finance the projects.  Republican Senator Stuart Adams is the sponsor of the bill.  He told his colleagues that having the ability to fuel moreCNGvehicles could strengthen Utah’s economy.

“As we burn and use fuels which are generated and produced here in Utah, we’ll have more people working, more people producing it, rather than people from out of state or even out of the country,” said Adams.

Critics of the bill warn that it could result in a natural gas rate increase. But Democratic Senator Patricia Jones said the overall savings to consumers would still be significant.

“Even if rates did go up a little bit, it would be broad based and if it would help our air quality it certainly in my mind would be worth the little bit that it might raise.  We have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country,” said Jones.

The bill was endorsed several weeks ago by Governor Gary Herbert. It passed the Senate on a vote of 27-0 and heads to the House for consideration. Also on Monday, the House passed HB 168 sponsored by Millcreek Democrat Patrice Arent.  The legislation would require all state agencies, including colleges and school districts to come up with plans to reduce pollution and report them to the state economic development task force.  Arent said it’s time for all state agencies to help reduce emissions.

“Examples of mitigation efforts are set forth in the bill.  None are mandatory because what works for one agency may not work another. I can’t imagine kindergarten teachers trying to tele-commute,” said Arent.

The bill passed the House unanimously and now heads to the Senate, but time is running out.  The 2013 general legislative session officially ends at midnight on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 KUER 90.1

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Terry Gildea comes to KUER from San Antonio where he spent four years as a reporter and host at Texas Public Radio. While at KSTX, he created, produced and hosted the station's first local talk show, The Source. He covered San Antonio's military community for the station and for NPR's Impact of War Project. Terry's features on wounded warriors, families on the home front and veterans navigating life after war have aired on Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. His half-hour radio documentary exploring the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center was honored by the Houston Press and the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters. Prior to his position in San Antonio, Terry covered Congress for two years with Capitol News Connection and Public Radio International . He holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Washington and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Terry enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons, fixing bicycles and rooting for his hometown Seattle Mariners.
Terry Gildea
Terry Gildea comes to KUER from San Antonio where he spent four years as a reporter and host at Texas Public Radio. While at KSTX, he created, produced and hosted the station's first local talk show, The Source. He covered San Antonio's military community for the station and for NPR's Impact of War Project. Terry's features on wounded warriors, families on the home front and veterans navigating life after war have aired on Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. His half-hour radio documentary exploring the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center was honored by the Houston Press Club and the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters. Prior to his position in San Antonio, Terry covered Congress for two years with Capitol News Connection and Public Radio International . He holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Washington and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Terry enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons, fixing bicycles and rooting for his hometown Seattle Mariners.