In the aftermath of yesterday's WCF article, which revealed that five Wasatch Front Counties had received a failing grade for air quality by the American Lung Association, the Tribune carries an informative editorial this morning, focusing on the formal difficulties of establishing more stringent air quality standards in Utah. Here's the lead:
Check out the full editorial here:The good news is, people worried that air quality and public health could suffer as a result of the planned expansion of the Tesoro refinery in Salt Lake City now have until June 7 to raise objections to that project.The bad news is, the mere fact that the public comment period has been extended matters little, given that state laws new and old make it all but impossible for anyone to hold either the refinery’s owners or state monitors to any standards other than those set a long time ago and far, far away.
- Despite their usual whining about how the federal government holds too much power, Utah lawmakers have long forbidden state agencies from setting down air quality standards more stringent than those established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
- Placing real controls on big-time polluters is made even more difficult by a new Utah law, Sen. Margaret Dayton’s SB11. That statute places the burden of establishing scientific or engineering reasons why a permit should not be granted squarely on the shoulders of any opponents. Not only that, opponents have to raise, and document, their objections within the limited public comment periods set by law.
The deck's stacked in favor of the polluting industries, folks, and there isn't much any of us can do about it.
Although the Trib calls for the State of Utah to devote its own resources to defending Utah air quality, even the Trib Editorial Board forthrightly recognizes that there isn't even a glimmer of hope for that:
We're stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place folks, with air pollution that's the worst in the nation continuing to sicken and kill our fellow Utah citizens; and yet we continue to re-elect irresponsible nit-wits like this over and over again, botched people who are perfectly willing to sacrifice "a few human lives," in exchange for short-sighted "economic prosperity," mainly for the benefit of her "Pollution Industry" campaign donors, of course.In a proper system, it would be professional staff in the employ of the state that would not only raise objections, but document and support them with detailed filings.But that won’t happen in Utah, where state government is prohibited from doing any governing that might interfere with the wishes of polluting industries.
Perhaps Professor Einstein said it best:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.So what about it folks? With another Utah General Election coming up in November, isn't it time to consider candidates who don't "sport" a capital "R" next to their names? Isn't it time to be a little more selective, and seek out candidates who are even marginally supportive of Utah Public Health? Shouldn't Utah air quality be a major 2012 election issue?
Just a thought.