ST. GEORGE – Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition issued a challenge to tackle the pressing issue of air pollution, calling for cleaner, more breathable air in Utah. And many mayors of Washington County rallied to the cause.
The challenge runs for the month of August and urges people and businesses to consider and modify their transportation habits for the benefit of the environment. It is predicated on the Coalition’s claim that over 50 percent of Utah’s air pollution comes from the use of motor vehicles; so driving cars less is what the Challenge is all about.
“The challenge gives everybody a chance to do a little bit more to make things a little bit brighter and a little bit bluer and a little bit greener in southern Utah,“ said Robin Erickson, executive director of the Coalition.
Mayors Ken Neilson of Washington City, Tom Hirschi of Hurricane City, Rick Rosenberg of Santa Clara City, Chris Hart of Ivins City and Daniel McArthur of the City of St. George, came together atop the Red Hills Parkway overlooking the St. George basin on July 30 to promote the “Clear the Air Challenge” for Washington County. Also joining them was Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.
Air Quality in Southern Utah:
Although southern Utah has not risen to the level of air quality concern that northern Utah has, the hot and still summer air invites vehicle pollutants to become trapped in the St. George valley area in increasingly high concentrations.
“Fortunately we still have air that qualifies under national standards as “clean” but if you make it into the non-attainment state, which a lot of northern Utah is now, then you’re part of the SIP (State Implementation Plans imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and then you have federal authorities coming in and telling you how to keep clean air rather than initiatives from within to keep the air clean ….”
Both Blodgett and McArthur noted air quality monitors, both having been placed and to be borrowed from northern Utah during their winter months. Blodgett said the monitors allow local authorities to identify sources of pollutants so that those areas can be addressed locally before levels rise such that the EPA becomes involved in directing action.
Blodgett also noted the impact air quality has on our lives. “It’s also a health problem,” he said, mentioning asthma, COPD, increases in hospitalizations from asthma, death rates from cardio vascular (issues), and the like as impacted by poor air quality. But, Blodgett said that from a health comparison standpoint, “we like to think of ourselves (in Southern Utah) as having clean air – but if you look at indicators of health, we’re probably about the same as other areas, and so we worry about that.”
The Challenge urges several areas of energy economy:
• Driving less
• Idling less
• Combining errands into fewer car trips (linking errands)
• Utilizing alternative means of transportation such as bicycling, walking
• Public transit and carpooling
• Teleworking (working from home or a hot spot that requires less driving, video conferencing instead of in-person meetings)
• E-traveling (downloading a movie instead of going to the store for a rental, shopping online instead of visiting a local retailer)
Mayors share personal anecdotes and features of their cities’ efforts:
Neilsen and his wife are carpooling and Washington City converted almost half its fleet to natural gas, saving almost 70 percent on fuel costs. Hirschi joked about earning the title of Hurricane City Czar for his vigilance in discouraging vehicle idling. Rosenberg said his family was combining what used to be four trips to the store in a week into one, with a little planning, and was encouraged that Santa Clara is now working with Ivins to place a Compressed Natural Gas station on the west side of town. Hart shared Rosenberg’s goal and said his goal was to convert all of Ivins’ public works and public safety vehicles to natural gas. McArthur walks miles daily with his wife, enjoying the bike and pedestrian paths that St. George has developed, and turns his car off while in the line for McDonalds or the bank; he pointed to the bus system established in St. George in part to reduce automobile emissions and urged parents to tell their kids to climb on the bus.
Emissions are a concern but those were surpassed by enthusiasm emitting from the city leaders, atop the red hill looking over a particularly clear St. George basin that morning. It was clear that everyone wants to keep Southern Utah clean. Excerpts of their speeches are provided here, along with those of Erickson and Blodgett, in our short video:
Participation in the challenge:
To sign up and participate in the challenge, register on the Clear the Air Challenge website.
During the Clear the Air Challenge, participants will log how many trips and miles of driving they have saved each week. The organizers hope that friends, family, businesses and co-workers will pit themselves against each other to achieve a competitive reward of greater emissions reduction for the community.
The goal is to eliminate 300,000 trips, save 2 million miles, and reduce 1.7 million pounds of emissions. This challenge is open to all travelers throughout Utah with the hope that our communities will work together to help each other improve the air we breathe.
About Utah Clean Cities Coalition:
Utah Clean Cities Coalition is one of the nearly 100 Coalitions that are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Initiative, working to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, develop regional economic opportunities, and improve air quality. As a non-profit organization, UCCC provides tools and resources for voluntary, community based programs to reduce consumption of petroleum-based fuels. Through its stakeholder partnerships, UCCC serves as a resource to promote and create alternative fuels, stations, and vehicles, image description as well as to promote clean strategies such as Idle Free Utah and the Clear the Air Challenge. UCCC has dual locations in Salt Lake City and St. George, which serve the entire state.
For more information:
Contact Robin Erickson, Executive Director at telephone 435-634- 4361 or by Email to Robin.Erickson@utahcleancities.org.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.