Bad air quality the fault of big corporations

Utah drivers have the greatest impact on our air quality, according to the Salt Lake City website dedicated to winter inversions. According to an infographic based on data from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 57 percent of our air pollution comes from vehicular traffic. Nobody likes the pollutant-trapping environment of the inversions that Utah’s valleys inevitably experience during the winter months, but do Utah commuters deserve the brunt of the blame?

As Richard Markosian pointed out in a Utah Stories article from January of this year, the byproducts of industrial pollution, “including [such chemicals as] chlorine, hydrochloric acid, ammonia, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, hydrogen cyanide, hexachlorobenzene and dioxin,” are much more dangerous to breathe than the majority of vehicle emissions. A related Utah Stories infographic lists the biggest polluters on the Wasatch Front as being US Magnesium LLC, the United States Department of Defense, Hexcel Corporation, Tesoro Refining, Kennecott, Brush Resources Inc. and Pacificorp, all heavy industry businesses.

It’s the lung-burning chlorine gas and other industrial pollutants that are mostly to blame for the unhealthy air quality during inversion season in Utah. While UTA promotes public transit as a step towards cleaner air, these chemicals act as a stronger incentive for would-be bike and TRAX commuters to spend as much time as possible in their cars and climate-controlled destinations. Ironically, the individual returns from using alternate forms of transit (which invariably require commuters to spend more time outside) with increased exposure to the dangerous pollution.

While reducing vehicle traffic in Utah would undoubtedly have a positive effect on air quality, traffic reduction is difficult to implement during the pollutant-trapping inversions themselves and unlikely to ever be more than an incremental step towards cleaner air. A more realistic and effective way to clean up Utah’s air would be to first push greater restrictions on heavy industrial polluters and more stringently enforce Environmental Protection Agency standards. Utah politicians are notoriously reluctant to comply with what is often perceived as federal interference; the Utah electorate should recognize that it would greatly benefit from choosing political leaders who align with federal environmental policies.

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Copyright 2018