The Davis County garbage-burning plant will be allowed to emit increased levels of air pollution until state officials grant a new permit for the plant.

The Utah Air Conservation Committee narrowly approved a variance Wednesday permitting the plant in Layton to release more nitrogen oxide than allowed by its current permit, said Burnell Cordner, Bureau of Air Quality director.The variance will allow increased nitrogen oxide levels after Sept. 1. Meanwhile, the Davis County Solid Waste Management and Energy Recovery Special Service District, which manages the plant, is seeking a permanent change in its permit. The new permit is expected to be issued Oct. 1 and be similar to levels granted in the variance, Cordner said.

The committee voted 4-3 to grant the variance. The plant will be allowed to discharge 84 pounds per hour of nitrogen dioxides rather than the current ceiling of 30.1 pounds.

The public has 15 days to request a public hearing on the committee decision.

"There was some concern because Davis County was at non-attainment for ozone-harming chemicals. Also part of it was that there are controls for nitrous oxide by putting ammonia into the system," Cordner said explaining the vote.

"We have strived very diligently to not give industry a moving target."

However, Cordner said the state is willing to grant the variance because of erroneous data provided by the contractor that the first permit was based on. As a result, 150 tons of garbage are being diverted every day from the burn plant to the nearby Davis County Landfill.

The special service district wanted the variance to increase the level of garbage it burns and fulfill a contract to provide increased amounts of steam to Hill Air Force Base beginning in September.

Even with the nitrogen oxide levels granted by the variance and levels expected to be granted by the new permit, levels are still far less than most waste-to-energy plants in the United States. Cordner said he is aware of only one plant in California that has tougher restrictions.

Cordner said that nitrogen oxide, in combination with other emissions and sunlight, causes an erosion in the earth's ozone layer. Scientists believe that a depleted ozone layer could lead to the warming of the earth's atmosphere or "greenhouse effect."