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Air quality bill will be changed to target U.S. Magnesium

A thick layer of polluted air over Ogden.
Rick Bolin

SALT LAKE CITY — An ambitious bill on air quality will be changed to target a company that environmental groups say is one of Utah's top polluters.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, confirmed to FOX 13 News on Wednesday he would be substituting House Bill 220 that originally pushed a 50% emissions reduction in northern Utah by 2030. But the bill was not gaining traction in the Utah State Legislature, so supporters are instead using it to go after U.S. Magnesium.

"Our mission remains the same. We want to see a 50% reduction along the Wasatch Front. We also want to see a bill that can pass," said Eliza Cowie, the policy director for the environmental group O2 Utah.

A recent study declared that U.S. Magnesium accounts for as much as 25% of pollutants in northern Utah. Rep. Stoddard said his bill will no go after bromine and chlorine pollutants.

"Those kinds of chemicals are 25% of our inversion," he said. "We can get the best bang for our buck with that."

Rep. Stoddard told FOX 13 News his bill would require Utah's Division of Air Quality to regulate the chemicals and their emissions.

"A lot of the bill’s language deals with DAQ putting in a 90% reduction rate by the end of 2024," he said. "How they [U.S. Magnesium] meet that? Is up to them but that’s what we're aiming for."

A spokesperson for U.S. Magnesium disputed the study's findings as "sensationalized" and insisted the company was not responsible for nearly as much emissions as have been claimed. But the bill also didn't seem to phase the company.

"I don’t think the bill is going to change anything. It’s a minor deal for U.S. Magnesium to report bromine," Tom Tripp, U.S. Magnesium's Director of Technical Services, told FOX 13 News.

Cowie said she was fine with the change in approach on air quality.

"This also ties into the Great Salt Lake issue," she said of U.S. Magnesium. "You saw in the fall, they had a request denied to dredge the lake four extra feet. By changing the way they work to ways that are more effective for our community and more friendly toward other citizens of Utah, we’re going to see great change on our air quality and our water as well."

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.