Utah Governor Pushes Cleaning Up Air Pollution, Expanding Medicaid in Annual Speech
Gov. Gary Herbert called for steps to clear Utah’s air, using his State of the State address to push for quicker adoption of clean-burning gasoline, clamping down on the use of wood-burning stoves and retrofitting aging, dirty school buses.
"These actions, and others, will have real costs and real impacts on all of us, but I’m convinced the benefits to our economy, to our communities and, most importantly, to our public health, will justify the costs," Herbert said.
During his nearly 30-minute speech, Herbert also reiterated his plan to at least partially expand Medicaid to cover at least 60,000 Utahns without health insurance under Obamacare, to defend Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, and appeared to respond to criticism earlier in the week from House Speaker Becky Lockhart that Herbert was failing to lead.
"Let us set aside any personal agenda and work to benefit the Utahns we serve," Herbert said, while not naming Lockhart.
It was the most direct call to action from the governor to date for dealing with Utah’s polluted air, which is among the unhealthiest in the nation.
Herbert said the state will accelerate its transition to so-called Tier 3 gasoline and lower-emission vehicles. The federal government is scheduled to begin phasing in the new standards for cleaner, low-sulfur gas in 2017. Utah likely would not get that fuel until 2019 at the earliest.
Herbert said Utah would make the change "as soon as possible," reducing tailpipe emissions by as much as 80 percent. Essentially, the state would unilaterally adopt the clean-fuel standard earlier than federally required.
Herbert also cited research by the University of Utah which found that smoke from wood-burning stoves accounts for about 5 percent of particulates in the winter inversion. Burning one log for an hour emits the same amount of pollution as driving from Salt Lake City to St. George and back.
He called on the state’s Air Quality Board to limit wood burning in non-attainment areas during the entire inversion season but did not specify the steps the board would take.