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Group Plans Clean Air Rally Two Days Before Utah Legislature Opening Session

State Capitol, Utah

A group of clean air advocates has resolved to organize a rally that would be the Utah’s largest. The group hopes to use public pressure to persuade state Lawmakers to address their concerns about what they say is a lack of Utah policy needed to address air quality concerns.

When Tom Bennett of Georgia travels he takes along his guitar and makes music. Bennett is a folk musician who has settled along Utah’s Wasatch Front.

“I love the west,” said Bennett. “I have traveled most places and decided to settle here because I found it to be the most beautiful state.”

It used to be that Bennett traveled through Salt Lake on a bicycle but now he is forced to use public transportation to get to and from work because he said he can’t physically handle the state’s poor air quality.

“Last winter I suffered an 80 percent loss of hearing because my sinuses were so infected from breathing bad air,” he said.

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranked northern Utah and parts of central California as having the country's worst air.

“Enough is enough,” said Carl Ingwell, a clean air organizer and member of the University of Utah’s Clean Air Task Force. “The only policy changes in Utah come from forced federal requirements. The state of Utah hasn’t done anything in the way of state sponsored bills to improve our air.”

Ingwell and Bennett are working with other clean air advocates to organize a “Clean Air, No Excuses Rally” to demand the Utah Legislature create public policy that will clean the air and promote clean energy. The rally is scheduled for Saturday, January 25 at the Utah State Capitol. Utah lawmakers will open the 2014 Legislative Session the following Monday.

“We are hoping for 1,000 participants,” he said. “That will make this rally the largest clean air rally ever in Utah’s history.”

Clean air advocates are expected to wear gas masks during the rally, said Ingwell, who will join Bennett in singing a clean air rally song written by his songwriter friend.

“I went to bed Sunday night and woke up around 3 a.m. with the words to the song,” said Bennett. “I am going to put it to music, make a video and post it through Facebook so everyone can come prepared to sing it together.”

The title of Bennett’s song is “Governor, We Cannot Breath” and includes lyrics that refer to Utah’s majestic mountains as being surrounded by hazy air.

Ingwell said he expects Utah lawmakers considering legislation to encourage Governor Gary Herbert to create clean air public policy may participate in the rally. He said he has been in discussion with at least one member of the Utah House of Representatives who is planning to present a bill that would eliminate medical waste incinerators from operating in Utah.

At 14-years-old, Kerry began working as a reporter for KVEL “The Hot One” in Vernal, Utah. Her radio news interests led her to Logan where she became news director for KBLQ while attending Utah State University. She graduated USU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent the next few years working for Utah Public Radio. Leaving UPR in 1993 she spent the next 14 years as the full time mother of four boys before returning in 2007. Kerry and her husband Boyd reside in Nibley.