Congressman Blake Moore and Nate McDonald, Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, joined us for UCAIR’s February Partner Meeting.
Congressman Moore represents the first district and is on the House Committee on Natural Resources. He started off by recounted a major success that Utah recently accomplished – Free Fare February. The issue of air quality is not only about quality of life, but also a health issue. Everything related to air quality can be challenging. We have seen leadership in Utah take more initiative on these things. It is great to see Utah organizations, leaders and community members come together and recognize the drying of the Great Salt Lake. There has been movement federally on the issue as well. Congressman Moore discussed his efforts on reaching across the isles and working with a representative in California, a state that also has a terminal lakebed, and co-sponsored a bill called the Saline Lakes Ecosystems. He appreciates the state legislature and Governor Cox’s office for helping with the communication of this issue. Congressman Moore also serves on the Energy Climate and Conservation Task Force, and he is interested in discussing clean energy initiatives. Energy is not a partisan issue but rather needs to have support from all to work together to find ways to move our energy industry forward.
After the Representative updated us, we jumped into questions from the audience
Can you address transit in your district and how are you seeing transit as an option in your area?
- Congressman Moore: Cache County is a highlighted area where we are retrofitting buses and providing more coverage for the area. There will be an app which will make it easier for planning when using transit in that area. Then there is the Kimball Junction Bus Rapid Transit to help with transit between Kimball Junction and Park City. Bus Rapid Transit in Ogden taking people from between downtown to Front Runner.
How can we better address at risk populations with clean energy and air strategy?
- Congressman Moore: Urban areas usually have worse air quality and in lower income communities. Two things to consider when thinking about this: Health and Economics. Often times this subject is thought of to be a very partisan issue and it’s not. There is a lot more agreement between everyone when it comes to these issues. The goal is to continue encouraging more organizations and companies to think more energy efficient moving forward.
How do you see the energy sector in rural areas, specifically in your district and in the Unitah Basin, transition to clean and renewable? What is the bipartisan approach to this?
- Congressman Moore: The Uintah Basin has always had a transportation and infrastructure issue due to being primarily an oil and gas industry region. The Uintah Basin Rail project will help to foster new jobs and new ideas in that area. This is a project that can really diversify the industries in that area-not related so much to the energy sector.
We then heard about the Weatherization Program from Nate McDonald, Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The Department of Workforce Services does a lot with housing. Part of the vision of the former Utah governor, Mike Leavett, was to make the Department of Workforce Services more than just workforce programs. The DWS Weatherization Program focuses on low-income housing to become more energy efficient. We partner and work with seven different local agencies. Community Action Program (CAP), help to establish and implement this program and also hold the training courses for program implementation. Since the program has launched, we have helped weatherize 52,000 homes. How these homes are served is a three-step process:
- Survey-for potential inefficiencies in the home that could be upgraded.
- Repairs-work with professional contractors for these inefficiencies to be upgraded
- Eligibility-population served in this program must be 200% below the federal income poverty level.
The list is then prioritized by health needs: disabled, elderly and clients with pre school aged children in the homes have the highest priority. Energy costs have risen over the years and the federal government recognizes that and has prioritized funding to help this.
Thank you to Nate for getting our education on how weatherization helps air quality and in your homes. Understanding how we can make weatherization adjustments in homes will help air quality significantly. For more information please see the WAP website here.
We then had the monthly air quality update from Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.
Legislature is in session currently and we are tracking around 25 bills related to air quality. We are still tracking bills and resolutions surrounding energy, air quality and climate:
- Ozone: We have monitored for years the end results but haven’t had a lot of precursors monitoring. The photochemical assessment monitoring to text and monitor how ozone is being formed and how we are exposed to it. We will need to install six different monitors to get the right data that we need.
- Air monitoring on the Wasatch back: To install and to monitor air in Wasatch and Summit County.
- Summer Air Quality Education: To provide funding to make sure we get the same motivation, activity and action and understanding that we get for our winter inversion periods.
On our regulatory side we have a few updates:
- Plan for regional haze: Up for comment at the upcoming April Air Quality Board meeting.
- Plan to address summer ozone: Stakeholder process to address ozone in the future.
- Current air quality: As inversion kicks in DEQ and DAQ was interviewed a lot, we are communicating simple things that everyone can do to lessen their impact on the airshed.
Then, our partners gave updates on what they are working on.
- Tammie Bostick, Utah Clean Cities: We will be heading to Washington DC with the Transportation Energy Partners and would like to invite a handful of you to the Energy Independent Summit in March. The focus of this trip is to bring together leaders of the Clean Cities Coalitions, the clean transportation energy sector, the Biden administration, and congress to discuss strategies for advancing markets for clean fuels and vehicles.
- Michelle Brown, State of Utah: On March 22, 2022 we will hold the State of Utah Purchasing Sustainability Summit in Taylorsville, UT. Registration is open for this event and will be hybrid format. More information here.
- Shawn Teigen, Utah Foundation: This is related to area source emissions that will take over mobile source emissions. We are currently working on a report to address this and look forward to sharing it with you.
- Bonnie Christiansen, Weber State University: Intermountain Sustainability Summit is coming up. March 16th-18th and we will be hosting all the events virtually this year. Thanks to all our partners in the room. More information here.