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86% SAY POLLUTION IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM

A new poll shows that Utahns believe air pollution is a serious problem along the Wasatch Front and that environmental regulators should increase efforts to clean it up.

The Deseret News/KSL poll found an overwhelming 86 percent of Utahns believe air pollution is a serious problem. Of those, half thought it was "very serious."Sixty-one percent of Utahns said they believe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be more strict in its efforts to clean up the air. That belief dipped to 54 percent in Cache, Box Elder and Davis counties, but jumped to 65 percent in Utah County.

That Utahns call Wasatch Front air pollution a serious problem comes as no surprise to state officials, who say poor air quality poses a threat not only to public health and the environment but to the state's economy.

"It's not just one pollutant and it's not one area affected," said Russell Roberts, director of the state Division of Environmental Quality.

Utah is currently considered out of compliance for federal standards for ozone, fine particulates (PM10) and carbon monoxide .

Cleaning up the atmospheric mess, however, has proven difficult, particularly because it requires year-round vigilance. Ozone, the primary component of smog, is a concern mainly in Salt Lake and Davis counties. PM10 is a wintertime problem in Salt Lake and Utah counties, and CO is a wintertime problem in Utah County.

"The solutions are not easy ones," said Roberts, whose office faces various deadlines for submitting plans to attain and maintain the standards. "The challenge is to keep the levels down while the area experiences rapid growth and (economic) development."

The challenge also is to find workable plans that are palatable to the EPA, which has authority to withhold federal highway funds if the state does not comply. The EPA can also impose its own plan for cleaning up the air. In effect, pollution controls would be expanded to small businesses and could include mandatory no-drive days for commuters.

Consequently, the EPA has incurred the wrath of state officials, who have been publicly critical of the agency's stubbornness to accept state plans to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Though the majority of Utahns believe that the EPA should become more strict, Russell believes it should become more flexible.

That alleged inflexibility prompted the state to file a lawsuit against the EPA earlier this year. The suit was dropped when the EPA decided to consider the state's voluminous plan to keep ozone levels in check.

"What the EPA really needs to do is allow the state to identify effective solutions for itself, prove to the EPA and public that they will work and then allow us to implement them to get the reductions we need in air pollution."

Roberts said the Clean Air Act is made inflexible by EPA's own policy and guidance documents, "which aren't written with Utah and the Western states in mind." He explained that EPA rules don't take into account Utah's demographics, topography, meteorology and the mix of motor vehicles.

Petroleum industry spokeswoman Shelly Cordon Teuscher agrees. "I think the EPA should allow areas to create solutions that work for them as opposed to imposing one `cookie-cutter' solution created in Washington."

Teuscher, associate director of the Utah Petroleum Association, said she believes state officials are "on the right path because they are trying to reduce air pollution while preserving options for future growth."

Doug Skie, air programs manager for the EPA's regional office in Denver, says his office is becoming more flexible.

"When the (air pollution plans) are being prepared, it's always the state's options as to the control strategies," Skie said. "The only criteria we have is that the strategies have to be legally enforceable and technically reliable."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Deseret News/KSL poll

In your opinion, how serious is air pollution along the Wasatch Front?

VERY SERIOUS 43%

SOMEWHAT SERIOUS 43%

NOT TOO SERIOUS 8%

NOT AT ALL SERIOUS 2%

DON'T KNOW 4%

In your opinion, should the EPA become more strict or less strict in its efforts to curb air pollution along the Wasatch Front?

MUCH MORE STRICT 25%

SOMEWHAT MORE STRICT 36%

SOMEWHAT LESS STRICT 14%

MUCH LESS STRICT 7%

OTHER 9%

DON'T KNOW 9%

Poll conducted Aug. 23-25, 1994. Margin of error +/-4% on interviews of 605 adult registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.