Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What are local politicians doing to fix air pollution?

While much has been made about the legislature’s promises to clean up the air, what is actually being done? What bills are on offer? Talking with my local Rep, Becky Chavez-Houck, she passed along the following information on what’s actually being considered.

HB 19 by Rep. Arent would encourage the use of electric vehicles by remove regulatory barriers to the construction of power stations by changing the definition of a public utility.

HB38 by Rep. Arent would create the position of state sustainability director in the Governor’s office to coordinate efforts (and share best practices) among local agencies related to air quality improvement.

HB 41 by Rep. Handy would establish a grant program to replace up to 170 “dirty diesel” school buses in the next year (and requires matching funds from districts). Also promotes alternative fuel infrastructure.

HB 55 by Rep. Poulson would create an income tax credit up to $100 for individuals purchasing monthly transit passes during Jan, Feb, and July.

HB 61 by Rep. Arent would increase subsidies for electric-hybrid vehicle purchases, allow direct grants for alternative refueling infrastructure; also would provide grants for heavy duty diesel retrofits.

HB 74 by Rep. Snow would provide a state income tax credits (up to $2500) for the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle, plug in electric hybrid vehicle, natural gas vehicle.

HB 271 by Rep. Perry and Sen Bramble would fine drivers, whose vehicles produce visible contaminants; the driver will be stopped and cited ($40 first time, increasing to $250) with a misdemeanor.

What do you think? While it's a helpful start, overall it seems like small beer that's overly complicated. Are police officers actually going to be stopping the hundreds of large trucks in South Jordan that produce visible pollution? Is a $100 transit pass tax credit (which benefit you won't notice till next tax season) going to alter your behavior? Several of these bills talk of grant programs, rebates, credits, subsidies, and creating new government officials. Most of these bills would make regulations more complex, when legislators should be looking to simplify. Here's how to both solve the air quality problem and not expand government: increase the gas tax and use part of the revenue to allow UTA to be free for everyone. Say a 40 cent gas tax increase per year until our air quality doesn't exceed health standards for one winter. The tax would encourage people to move away from dirty habits (and allow the market to decide what might the best alternative) and raise revenue. What say you?


  1. Not only are a lot of the bills disappointingly tame, some of them exchange one problem for another. Handy is my local rep, and the idea of replacing the diesel buses and expanding alternative fuel infrastructure seems less like an air pollution concern and more like a handout to the natural gas industry, which is hugely problematic. Trade our dirty air for poisoning the drinking water near a hydraulic fracturing operation? That doesn't sit well with me.
    I have a fantasy where Bush responded to 9/11 by asking for shared sacrifice instead of business as usual, where we rose gas taxes and entered an age of modern transportation a decade ago. Alas.

  2. Ah yes, Bush could have dome something extraordinary there. One weird thing to me is that sooo many people seem to love markets, but whenever it comes to switching to green energy they prefer that the government pick and choose which industries to support (ie, wind, solar, natural gas, or the once-beloved ethanol) rather than just making dirty fuel expensive and letting the economy naturally choose its replacement.