Utah’s Air Gets A Failing Grade

BY ON April 24, 2013

Air pollution around a smokestack.

This is a press release from Utah Moms for Clean Air:

The American Lung Association just released their annual State of the Air Report and Utah once again earned an “F” grade for air quality in all of it’s major population centers across the state. Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber all received F grades for particulate pollution. Our State fared better in the ozone category, except for Salt Lake and Uinta Basin, which also both received F grades for this colorless but toxic pollutant.

The Uinta Basin stands out in the report for having a unique wintertime ozone problem due to intensive fossil fuel production in the valley. A recent comprehensive study reported that oil-field operations created about 99 percent of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and about 70 percent of the nitrogen oxides emitted in the basin.  In 2011, ozone parts per billion reached 139, nearly twice the federal health standard. Approximately, 1,100 wells were drilled that year alone.

Overall, Utah claimed two of the top ten spots for worst acute air pollution spikes in the nation. Our infamous inversions, which received national attention from all of the major television networks this past winter, put the corridor from Weber County to Salt Lake County in position number 6, while Cache Valley claimed position number 10.

“These are not just abstract numbers on a spreadsheet”, says Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, “these are numbers with real life consequences, as every year between 1000 and 2000 people die prematurely in Utah due to our toxic air. Thousands more are hospitalized, countless days are missed from work and school, and for the majority of Utah citizens, our quality of life is simply diminished.”

Utah Moms for Clean Air believes it is the birth right of every child to breathe clean air and the fact that this fundamental right is taken away year after year from nearly every Utah child is unacceptable.  Solutions are available, but the majority of our political leaders refuse to act. At the request of Governor Herbert and his Environmental Advisor, Alan Matheson, Utah Moms for Clean Air recently prepared and delivered a proactive plan entitled “Path to Improving Air Quality in Utah.” In the plan, we clearly outline a number of major steps that can be taken, however months have passed and we have yet to see any meaningful action from the Governor’s office.

Moms do not accept failing grades on their children’s report cards and equally, we do not accept failing grades by our government. Since air pollution is a solvable problem, the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report is grading our Governor and other elected officials as much as it is grading our air – and it is abundantly apparent, both get F grades.


TOPICS: Activism, Asthma, Clean Air Act, Politics, Pollution, Utah

  • Ernest Grolimund

    Just called Utah state env dept for an update on Salt Lake Cites crisis that made NBC news. Utah found an error in their apportionment system for determing the percent of pm from wood smoke. The emission factor was off 500% !!! Of by a factor of five. They now agree with me and others that wood smoke is major factor. I did not ask for the new number and they did volunteer it. But wood smoke was probably more of a factor than vehicles which is usually the case across the country and the world.
    The 100 physicians who asked for a ban on wood burning equipment based on U.N. recommendations are probably correct in my opinion. The Governor has changed a little due to information presented by the state env dept on how air pollution affects business and the economy poorly. Investigations are under way in scientific academian circles.
    The scientist was basically in agreement with everything I said about the pm system not working anymore due to wood smoke hotspots overwhelming the system. Admitted that the ave pm was unknown and the range of pm was not known though Brian Williams reported extreme variations all across the city. The EPA Inspector General is reportedly saying in preliminary comments that the entire pm monitoring system is not working. So, the repoted pm is not the pm at houses. That pm is like much higher. 300 mcg/m3 pm2.5 to 1,000 mcg/m3 peak 1 hr averages. 1,200 was reported in the London Fog Air Pollution disaster. The pictures are similar.
    The area gets a grade of “F” from me too for air quality. I hope this crisis stimulates a solution like what happened in London. They solved there air pollution problem by banning coal burning in fireplaces. Utah could probably do the same by banning wood burning in stoves and fireplaces and boilers.