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EPA’S LACK OF FLEXIBILITY FRUSTRATES UTAH GOVERNOR

SHARE EPA’S LACK OF FLEXIBILITY FRUSTRATES UTAH GOVERNOR

Gov. Mike Leavitt expressed dissatisfaction Wednesday after failing to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to show more flexibility in enforcing its standards in Utah County for carbon monoxide emissions.

"We are primarily looking for a little bit more leeway from the EPA in the way they can go about reaching acceptable air quality in Utah County," he said after meeting with representatives of the Utah County Commission, Utah Division of Air Quality Director Russell Roberts, representatives from Utah's congressional delegations and EPA officials in Washington, D.C.The governor spoke with Utah media representatives in a conference call Wednesday from Washington.

Leavitt said Utah County exceeded the carbon monoxide standard by 51 days in 1983, but during the past year, the standard was exceeded on just two days. However, EPA standards allow the county to exceed only one day.

Utah must submit by July 1 a state implementation plan describing how it will reduce carbon monoxide pollution, especially Utah County. Leavitt said they asked for the appointment with the EPA to discuss alternatives to the implementation plan he says "makes more sense that what is currently prescribed by both the agency and the law."

Leavitt said although the EPA does not show flexibility, "one size does not fit all."

"Utah County is not the same as every other city in America and yet they (EPA) are prescribing a list of cures that simply applies to everyone," he said.

For example, he cited mounting evidence that the use of oxygenated fuels in Utah County, as recommended by the EPA, may be adding to the problem of PM10, a more harmful particulate. Oxygenated fuels increase combustion, reducing the carbon monoxide generated by vehicles.

But he said evidence, albeit not conclusive, shows that fine particulate levels are lower in Salt Lake County, where oxygenated fuels are not mandated, than in Utah County.

"But the dilemma we now face is if we don't use oxygenated fuel we will lose our highway funds," Leavitt said. "If it is not on their menu, you don't get credit for it."

Meanwhile, Utah County commissioners walked away from Wednesday's meeting frustrated. "I would predict that we'll end up in court over it," said Commissioner Richard Johnson.

EPA officials basically rejected a proposal the commission believes will further reduce carbon-monoxide pollution in the county. Plans include doing away with oxygenated fuel, tightening the automobile emissions inspection program, remote sensing of gross polluters and one-way streets and removal of traffic signals in Provo to encourage traffic flow.

"They just kind of turned their nose at those things and said, `Nope. That isn't enough,' " he said.

Nevertheless, commissioners intend to present the plan to the Utah Air Quality Board Thursday night. The board adopts the state implementation plan that will be submitted to EPA.

Commissioner Gary Herbert the EPA hasn't considered what it will cost the county to reduce CO violations from two to zero. "If it cost you $10 million, that's too bad," he said, adding that he believes current programs are effective and the county's proposal will comply with air quality standards in the Clean Air Act.

Utah is not alone in battling the EPA. Many states are finding it impossible to fit into the EPA's tight mold on pollution standards, he said.