Utah Foundation hosts a panel to discuss the future of Utah air quality

Oct 14, 2021

The sky over Utah.
Credit Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office

With worsening wildfire seasons and Utah’s growing population, the state’s air quality is at the forefront of the scientific and political conversation.

This week, experts gathered to discuss Utah’s air quality at an online panel hosted by the Utah Foundation, a group focused on non-partisan research and analysis.

Utah has some of the worst air quality in the nation, costing us billions annually, and reducing the average Utahn’s life expectancy by two years, compared to clean air states. While industrial pollution has decreased over the past decade, Utah is still grappling with significant vehicle pollution.

Kim Shelley, executive director of Utah's Department of Environmental Quality, laid out a roadmap for reducing pollution from our roads.

“We need a much stronger focus on making it easier for individuals to drive less . . . by continuing support of telework in both the public and private sector, improving access and affordability of public transit, incentivizing cleaner and electric vehicles, and improving the electric vehicle charging network,” Shelley explained.

Jill Flygare, the chief operating officer of the Utah Inland Port Authority highlighted their involvement with alternative fuels initiatives, including Utah State University-led ASPIRE Center.

“By 2050, over 30% of trucks moving cargo will run on alternative fuels…and so as we are looking at partnerships and building infrastructure, if we don't build that infrastructure along the important corridors here in Utah . . . then we will get the dirty vehicles. So it's critical that we invest here in Utah,” Flygare said.

David Garbett, the executive director of o2 Utah, highlighted the importance of continuing the fight for our air quality and the nonprofit’s involvement with legislation.

“The best research anticipates the for every dollar we spend in cleaning our air, we get $32 of benefits and economic growth,” Garbett said. “Yesterday we announced we will be introducing framework and legislative policy to reduce emissions with the goal of reducing emissions here along the Wasatch Front 50% by 2030.”