April Partner Meeting

For April’s Partner Meeting, we heard from Paul Corrigan with the US Forest Service presenting on wildfire and smoke overview. Then we heard from Ryan Bares, an environmental scientist from DAQ on how the community can help with ozone. After we heard from Britton Bettridge who leads Leaders for Clean Air on electric vehicle charging updates.

Paul Corrigan, the Interagency Smoke Coordinator for the US Forest Service, started our discussion. The Interagency Wildland Fire-Air Quality Response Program is a partnership with the goal of assessing, communicating, and addressing the risks of wildfire smoke. The smoke had a large impact in 2021 throughout the western US. One of the most important impacts of wildfires the long durations of high levels of pollutants. The air pollutants from smoke negatively affect the public, specifically vulnerable populations. There has been a strong increasing trend. Since to 2000 the number of acres that have been burned has doubled. It doesn’t take very much of increased heat to make everything more vulnerable to wildfires. Pre 2000 the average burnt acre was anywhere from 4-5 million. The low humidity climates make for a perfect environment for wildfires. It is apparent that the effects of wildfires is imminent as we have seen the levels of smoke increase each year, so how has the US Forest Service planned to respond? Each year, the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response team sends out air resource advisors that work on wildfire teams and they message to the public about what is happening with the air quality as well as give some close to real time information on how the fire is progressing, efforts being done, and steps being taken proactively to prevent detrimental future fires. The goal is to provide individuals and communities the knowledge and ability to stay reasonable safe and healthy during smoke episodes. The concept is to provide folks with this information ahead of time that can help you be healthy and safe with consistent messaging. During fire events with smoke individuals can: limit outdoor exposure, minimize sources of indoor pollution, create clean room, purchase an HEPA air filter or filtration device, and know how to determine air quality.

Visit the following linked resources for more information on the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program, as well as the EPA Smoke Ready Program, and finally the EPA/USFS Fire and Smoke Map.

Next, we heard from Ryan Bares, Environmental Scientist for the Utah Division of Air Quality, on the Ozone State Implementation Plan and how the community can be involved.

Ground level ozone (usually just referred to as ozone) is not released directly into the air but is instead created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In the presence of sunlight, NOx and VOCs break apart and recombine into new compounds, including ozone (UDAQ, 2014c). Motor vehicle exhaust; emissions from industrial facilities, refineries, and power plants; gasoline vapors; and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of nitrogen oxides and VOCs, and thus ozone (EPA, 2013g). Ozone can reach unhealthy levels on hot, sunny days in regions with high concentrations of the nitrogen oxides and VOC precursors, such as urban areas. Ozone and its precursors can also be transported long distances by wind, so even rural areas can experience high ozone levels (EPA, 2013g). Ozone contributes to the smog or haze typically associated with air pollution. Due to the long-range transport potential for ozone precursors, wildfires and urban emissions from other continents can also contribute to local ozone formation (UDAQ, 2014c). Even at relatively low levels, exposure to ozone can cause harmful health effects, particularly of the lungs and respiratory system.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with each state to make sure the air pollution levels are within a set standard, and any area that does not meet the national primary or secondary ambient air quality standard for a NAAQS is termed a “nonattainment area”. Here in Salt Lake City, we were recently bumped up marginal nonattainment to moderate nonattainment classification as defined by the EPA. Due to this change in status of the levels of ozone, Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) is required to draft a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to come back within attainment levels of pollution. The UDAQ scientists and staff have put together a list of implementation ideas, and the public is now invited to get involved and input ideas of how to mitigate ozone pollution. If you have implementation ideas please visit the UDAQ Ozone landing page and watch the recording of the first of a series of public meetings where Utah Division of Air Quality scientists ask the public for ideas on reducing ozone emissions in the northern Wasatch Front.

Next, we heard from Britton Bettridge, Executive Director of Leaders for Clean Air, about EV charging installations in Utah. Leaders for Clean Air (LFCA) is a non-profit that is focused on meeting with businesses and helping implement EV infrastructure throughout Utah. LFCA helps businesses, start to finish, and find programs for businesses to help with funding to make the implementation of EV charging stations seamless. We work closely with Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) EV charging incentives and have implemented 89% of the charging stations around the Salt Lake valley. They found that working with business, on average, the approximate amount businesses spend on an EV charger is around $4,326. Through LFCA, the cost decreases to an average of $ 1,462 per charger. That’s a 66% in total hardware savings for RMP customers. Total project savings for RMP customers is $4.6 million dollars. If you are interested in installing EV chargers, please visit the LFCA website here.

Next, we heard an air quality update from Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. There have been some air quality disturbances within the week with an increase in particulate matter during a large storm that brought in heavy wind. Starting May 1st, public comment for the regional haze plan opens. We have seen a lot of prescribed fires now that it is spring, you may see several smoke plumes to better control the environment to lessen wildfires.

 Thank you to our partners that joined us this month! We will see you next month.