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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.

Capitol Protestors Demand Air-Pollution Action

Carl Ingwell (left) and Brian Moench (right) were the leading organizers of Saturday's rally on the Utah Capitol's south steps. Rep. Angela Romero (middle) was one of the half-dozen lawmakers who attended.
Carl Ingwell (left) and Brian Moench (right) were the leading organizers of Saturday's rally on the Utah Capitol's south steps. Rep. Angela Romero (middle) was one of the half-dozen lawmakers who attended.

Carl Ingwell (left) and Brian Moench (right) were the leading organizers of Saturday's rally on the Utah Capitol's south steps. Rep. Angela Romero (middle) was one of the half-dozen lawmakers who attended.
Credit Judy Fahys
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Carl Ingwell (left) and Brian Moench (right) were the leading organizers of Saturday's rally on the Utah Capitol's south steps. Rep. Angela Romero (middle) was one of the half-dozen lawmakers who attended.

    

A sea of people swarmed Utah’s Capitol steps and south lawn Saturday. Thousands gathered for the Clean Air, No Excuses rally just above winter smog blanketing the valley. Brian Moench, a co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the demonstrators they have a right to clean air.

“This is your state,” said Moench. “What goes on in the building behind us is your government. The air you breathe is largely what you make of it, either by ignoring it, making it worse by neglect or by fighting to make it better.”

Advocacy groups offered volunteer signup sheets and petitions. One petition demanded that leaders provide better transit and cleaner industry. It had more than 7,500 signatures. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay, urged the crowd to be persistent.

“We need to keep the pressure up on government officials so they take meaningful actions in the session which begins Monday,” she said. “Our voices should not, must not stop today. We should not, we cannot look at this brown toxic sky and think we should have done something about changing it but chose not to. We must act.”

Utah Department of Environmental Quality Director Amanda Smith issued a statement applauding the activists. It said: “We recognize that Utah's air quality is unacceptable.” It concluded: “Every citizen of Utah can and must engage in making the solutions a reality.”

Copyright 2014 KUER 90.1

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Judy Fahys is KUER's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.