For Utah, Biden Climate-Change Plan Could Mean Cleaner Air, New Jobs

Jan 29, 2021

Restoring EPA regulations on vehicle emissions standards could help the Wasatch Front/Salt Lake City region roll back its annual brown cloud, which appears each winter.
Credit Utah Department of Health

President Joe Biden released a package of executive orders this week designed to fight climate change, curb pollution, conserve natural resources and address environmental justice.

The directives establish a new federal Office of Climate Change and a National Climate Task Force to work on global warming, renewable energy and public health.

Dr. Scott Williams, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, believes any plan to cover these issues must also focus on bringing benefits to all Utahns.

"The health effects of the burden of pollution have been visited primarily on disadvantaged populations: poor people, people of color, indigenous people; and that's true in Utah," Williams contended. "I think it's really important that as we solve this, we need to make sure the solutions are just, across all populations."

The administration is directing 40% of clean-energy investments toward undeserved and marginalized communities.

Utah currently has its own goals to reduce carbon emissions 20% by 2025, and to get 50% of its energy from clean sources by 2030.

Williams predicted President Biden's plan to invest in clean energy will help create good jobs and spur long-term growth for Utah's economy.

"We think it's appropriate to limit carbon emissions, and I think that's pretty well known scientifically, it just runs into problems with the economy," Williams explained. "And figure out ways that those jobs that might be lost can be transitioned to 'clean' jobs."

Williams noted Biden's order to restore Environmental Protection Agency regulations on vehicle mileage and emissions standards, which were ended by the Trump administration, will also bring cleaner air to Utah.

"His order on restoring the mileage standards that were rolled back, and that the auto industry supports, actually, will dramatically reduce auto emissions along the Wasatch Front, which will help clean up our air, which improves people's health," Williams asserted.

He added while Biden's use of executive orders is necessary for quick action, he'll eventually need Congress to pass strong climate-change legislation, to make it harder for future administrations to change or roll back the new policies.