The March 2021 UCAIR Partners meeting was hosted by our board member, Emily Schilling. Our first resonation was a panel recap discussion about the 2021 legislative session which ended on March 4th. We then heard from Hillary Arens from Snowbird about their air quality initiatives. Last but not least, Bryce Bird with the Division of Air was kind enough to join us again with an air quality update from DAQ.
2021 Legislative Recap- Ashley Miller, Breathe Utah, Andrew Gruber, Wasatch Front Regional Council & Bryce Bird, Division of Air Quality
This is a brief recap of this year’s legislative session focusing on some legislation as it relates to air quality. Senator Dan McCay’s SB-015, which he spoke to us about at the January meeting, was passed. This bill focuses on teleworking on a permanent basis for employees who can do this regularly. The target is to get 90% of employees to telework on bad air days and/or bad weather days. Some other passed bills include:
- SB-020: extended sunset date on the air quality advisory board and has added two new member.
- SB-146: This pilot program will include diesel truck emissions in the emissions readings for all non-attainment areas.
- HB-091: Tax credit for heavy fueled vehicles.
- HB-131: Energy benchmarking bill to track and increase energy efficiency looking at water, electricity and natural gas use to evaluate and make a plan to run more efficiently.
Another big change to this year’s session came as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the session I participated online and only went to the capitol about four times this year. There will likely be more ability to participate in these things remotely. What was interesting in the session was the fluctuation in the budget. Big swings in the budget. There was an unprecedented investment into transportation for public transit and biking trails. We know that the emissions here in Utah come from vehicle emissions as the largest single source of pollution. We need to provide people with choices on how to get around. This was one of the key rationales. HB-433: 1.1 Billion dollars to enhance Front Runner and 200 million for state bonding for transit. 300 Million dollars for double tracking Front Runner. 35 Million dollars went into regionally important active transportation access. This is about the way we grow as a community and our housing development. More mixed use and multi-family building. SB-217: Housing and transit reinvestment zones. This is a bill that creates tax incentives to encourage more dense and mixed development.
Another bill that got a lot of attention was HB-346, the potential merger of DEQ and DNR, that didn’t pass and will be studied this summer. There was also a radon study bill to in homes to try to protect people from that radiation. We had a number of incentive programs that had to be pulled back. With the Wood Stove Exchange Program we have had to stagger them out as contractors that are qualified to do the work are available. SB-005: Free Fair Days on bad air quality days and we are working with UTA on that. Air Quality Research we have 500K a year that goes into air quality research. Mobile data collection will continue. EV charging stations to continue. The Wood Stove conversion program will continue in SL County for low-income homes. Air monitoring equipment to make sure we are able to replace air monitoring equipment. Fee changes are also due to increase with a new fee structure. There were a few that were not funded. Thanks to you the taxpayers who help to pay for these programs.
Snowbird & Air Quality – Hilary Arens, Director of Sustainability and Water Resources
I’ve been at Snowbird for five years with a background in water quality. Before there was a term for air quality, Dick Bass had an air quality vision. Inversion, Snowbird-Play Forever.
Part of our education is to help find more information. We have teamed with the University of Utah for the Atmospheric Trace Gas and Air Quality Lab, to provide background information. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. The U of U has air quality monitors on the top of Hidden Peak, with that information they are able to compare and can determine the influence of urban emissions. We also work with Breathe Utah offering the Front Side Sessions giving people opportunities to take action and receive tickets to these exclusive shows as reward. We participate in the Climate Challenge the National Ski Areas Association. Here at the resort, we lower the thermostats at night and ask visitors to the resort to be idle free and encourage carpooling. We have created the RIDE Program (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment), offering incentives and prizes to those that do choose to carpool like closer parking, half price transferrable tickets and early access to the tram. In response to Covid-19 we offered parking reservation programs. We offer EV charging stations and in 2017 bought an electric bus and intend to install more EV charging stations. We are grateful to Leaders for Clean Air and Rocky Mountain Power for helping putting those in. Snowbird subsidies UTA transit passes for patrons and employees. We are also part of the UDOT-Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement. Some of the different options that are being put out that we are in support of is the Gondola transportation and Alta is supportive of this as well. We are doing an onsite assessment for solar conversion for the lodge. We also transport trees that would otherwise be destroyed due to an avalanche path. Part of our advocacy are the POW Seven in collaboration with Utah Climate Action Network and Path to Positive to make sure that we make a point that climate change is real and we can change it.
Air Quality Update – Bryce Bird, Division of Air Quality
Just some quick air quality updates. This was an excellent winter for air quality. We did have a number of inversion periods but we have not exceeded the standard here in Salt Lake County. There was one day in Cache County that they did exceed it. We actually were surprised that we did so good but still room for improvement. In the Uintah Basin: This winter again we did have inversion periods and snow on the ground and only measured two days above the standard. So far we have had a clean air quality winter. Looking toward the summer we still face high ozone and try to think about fire dangers for that is a part of the impact on air quality.
PARTNER ROUND TABLE
Following the presentation, partners shared what projects and initiatives they are currently working on. These included:
Blair Blackwell, Chevron- We had noted to this group that we are committed to following the state actions in terms of working from home on bad air days and how do we do work from home more broadly. We feel there is more that we can learn from others and hope that others can also learn from us. We spoke to UCAIR about this previously and we talked to Envision Utah last week about how to include more people on call hopefully by the end of this month. If you’re interested in joining us on that call please email me.
Bonnie Christiansen, Weber State University- Intermountain Sustainability Summit will be happening next week. This year we are bringing two keynote speakers.
Emily Paskett, Utah Clean Cities- We are going to DC next week for the Energy Independence Summit. Clean Cities Network does put together a list of laws and incentives for Utah and other states for please follow the links.
NEXT MEETING: April 9, 2021, 9:00-10:30 AM