After taking a break in July, the UCAIR partners meeting is back. This month we had four great presenters. First up was Ted Knowlton from Wasatch Front Regional Council, followed by Bo Call and Jay Baker with the Division of Air Quality. To finish up the meeting our very own executive director, Thom Carter, presented the findings of UCAIR’s telework survey.
The Great Localization: Opportunities and Threats for Air Quality in a Post COVID World – Ted Knowlton, Wasatch Front Regional Council
Until recently, most offices were located in office parks that were in suburbs and not very accessible to other amenities such as retail or restaurants without driving. Over the last couple years this has begun to shift as companies began to search out office space in areas that offered employees the opportunity to get out of the office and shop and eat nearby within walking or biking distance. Now with widespread teleworking, your office is at home. People want the area around their homes to be more accessible and engaging in that same fashion as urban offices. These changes are referred to as “The Great Localization”. Having amenities in neighborhoods can result in long term emissions reductions by reducing the need to drive.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of life. Activities like bicycling and open space use are significantly up compared to a year ago. At the peak of the COVID-19 shift in Utah, freeway volumes were down 40%, but traffic was not significantly reduced on surface streets. During this peak shift, WFRC estimates that there was an overall emissions reduction of about 40%. This reduction is not seen across all sectors. An increase in telework over the long term could help keep at least some of our emissions down. While in many ways the pandemic has had a significant impact on air quality, it is important to note that that there are still problems to solve.
Peak Short-Term Changes COVID-19 “Stay Home” Phase:
• E-commerce +40% • Telecommuting +40%
• Transit use -70% • Bicycle use +90%
•Open space use +100% • Freeway volumes -40%
• Travel time by auto -15% •Air emissions -38%
Insights from the DAQ – Bo Call & Jay Baker, Division of Air Quality
Ozone levels are measured using an average and EPA compliance is evaluated using averages over three-year periods. The ozone level for compliance set by the EPA is 70. Utah County has met the EPA ozone standard with an average of 68. The Northern Wasatch Front and Uintah Basin are in marginal non-attainment. There have been eight days this year that have exceeded the EPA standard. This data has been pulled from monitors located in Rose Park and at Hawthorne Elementary. Currently, the three-year average ozone level is 76.3 along the Wasatch Front. Unfortunately, ozone levels can be very dependent upon weather. In hot dry summers with very little rain ozone levels are generally higher than summers with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Areas in the state that are in non-attainment will be reevaluated by the EPA after the three-year period ending in August 2021. DAQ has started to proactively prepare plans to implement certain controls to help reduce emissions that result in ozone.
UCAIR’s Telework Pulse Survey – Thom Carter, Executive Director, UCAIR
As employers in Utah have approached telework over the past 5-7 years, some significant challenges were: general attitudes, perceived productivity, and infrastructure. In June of this year UCAIR shared a survey with our partners, ultimately 7,500 survey submissions were received. Of those respondents, 72% were employees and 28% were executives/managers. Survey data indicates that 97% of respondents are doing some sort of teleworking during the ongoing pandemic. More than 55% of organizations that responded began teleworking at the beginning of the outbreak. A majority of respondents, 86%, have positive attitudes about teleworking today.
Some of the reported benefits of teleworking include:
- 93% maintained or increased productivity
- 85% saved money
- 68% of employers reported saving money (utilities, etc.)
- 56% employers report increased employee productivity
- 92% reduced commute
- 72% increase of time with loved ones
- 72% employers reported improved employee attitudes
Survey respondents also reported concerns about teleworking the biggest of which was limited or no contact with colleagues. Despite this concern, 94% of executives would allow employees to telework and 93% of employees are willing to telework on poor air quality days. Utahns also reported being willing to telecommute in the future. However, most would prefer to telework a few days a week or month as opposed to daily. These results are encouraging, suggesting that now is the moment to continue moving this discussion forward. Widespread telecommuting has serious potential help improve air quality in Utah.
Following the presentation, partners shared what projects and initiatives they are currently working on. These included:
Michelle Brown, Department of Administrative Services – Department of Administrative Services received a grant from DAQ to implement an electric lawn equipment pilot program for the Division of Facilities and Construction Management. The project will be completed in three phases, with the final outcome being all state campuses will be equipped with electric lawn care and landscaping tools.
Chase Wilson, AmeriCorps, Weber State University – With a UCAIR grant they were able to purchase a number of Google Nest, smart thermostats for the Empower Northern Utah Smart Thermostat program. Through this program, 200 will be offered for $50.00 plus tax and fees. An additional 38 will be free of charge to low income residents. Registration opens for this program September 15th.
Richard Valentine, Salt Lake County Health Department – In July we had 17 green days which is the highest number of green days we have seen in a while. This will be last meeting that he will speak on behalf of Salt Lake County because he is retiring today (8/14).
*UCAIR would like to thank Richard and congratulate him on a phenomenal career and all he has done for air quality.
Thom Carter, UCAIR –
- UCAIR elected a new board chair, Liz Joy and a new chair-elect, Emily Schilling. They will serve for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Amanda Smith served as board chair for the last year and we appreciate all her work and service.
- Utah Outdoor Summit will be held August 25-26. A limited number of tickets for in person attendance are available. A kick-off dinner will be held at the new Timpanogos Cave National Monument Visitor Center on August 25. The updated agenda and activities are available online.
- Utah Business Magazine will be hosting a Zoom panel discussion called A Conversation about Electrifying Utah on August 28th 11:00am. Speakers will include Thom Carter, Todd Ritter, Britton Bettridge, and James Campbell.
NEXT MEETING: September 11, 2020, 9:00-11:00 AM