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Environmental Groups Want EPA Air Quality Deadline Pushed Up

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Deadlines under debate for Utah's air quality

Environmental groups want the federal government to require Utah to complete a plan to clean up dirty winter air by the summer of 2017, and not 18 months later as being proposed. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to downgrade northern Utah's air quality designation next month after three years of dirty winter air. Emma Penrod, an environmental reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, spoke on this morning’s Behind the Headlines about her understanding on why these groups are against the EPA’s proposal to extend the deadline.

“They feel that giving the state more time will put everyone’s health at risk longer. There’s also the issue of the final 2019 deadline by EPA standards is required to meet. That’s when we have to solve this pollution problem … In order to meet that, the environmentalists want the state implementation plan in place before 2018 which is what the 3-year deadline would put it at. So they want more than a year for the state implementation plan to take effect. They just don’t feel that extending the deadline would be protective of health on the Wasatch Front.”

Behind the Headlines host, Jennifer Napier-Pearce says if the state of Utah doesn’t meet the EPA standards they will be labeled as noncompliance, meaning it is breaking federal law by not keeping the Clean Air Act. Penrod talks more about the penalties associated with that violation.

“There are more restrictions that will be put into place. It will require the state’s division of air quality to be more strict about the kinds of permits that they allow businesses. So, right now businesses that emit a certain amount of air pollution are subject to certain standards because we’re a non-attainment area. That will be more strict by federal law in Utah if we miss this deadline and become a serious non-attainment issue.”

Penrod says that the more deadlines Utah misses, the stricter the federal government will be with future regulations.