This past Valentine’s Day, sweethearts in the Salt Lake Valley were treated to some of the dirtiest air in the country, as well as the most air pollution the area has seen since 2013. The inversion was so thick that it made it not only difficult to breathe, but also difficult to see anything beyond a radius of just a few yards. Bo Call, the Utah Division of Air Quality’s monitoring manager, noted that “if you can't see the buildings or the mountains or anything else, that's kind of bad."

Mr. Call has a gift for understatement.

The Salt Lake Valley’s unique geography will indefinitely continue to trap dirty air between the mountains, so there will never be a time when we can grow complacent in our efforts to maintain a wise and responsible stewardship of our air quality, not just along the Wasatch Front, but throughout the entire state of Utah.

To that end, a coalition that includes HEAL Utah, Western Resource Advocates and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment has crafted three proposed rules designed to manage pollution and improve air quality throughout the state. They will formally present these rules in a petition to the Air Quality Board at their scheduled meeting on this coming Wednesday, March 2.

The rules create emission limits, lower the current threshold for existing offsets for emission increase, and increase the current emission testing frequency from the existing statutory requirement of “at least once every five years” to every three years or less. These rules are common-sense measures that would have a significant positive effect on Utah’s air quality going forward.

However, the decision this Wednesday will not be whether or not to adopt the rules, but only whether these rules ought to be able to proceed to the next step toward consideration. On March 2, the Air Quality Board will determine whether or not these rules should be put out for public comment. This will allow citizens to weigh in alongside air quality experts and industry leaders in the private sector as to whether or not these rules should become binding.

We add our voice to that of the coalition in calling for the Air Quality Board to allow for a period of public comment and input with regard to these rules. Surely it is worthwhile to continue the conversation over such a vital issue, as well as to invite all stakeholders to join in the discussion. We need to be able to chart a clear vision toward a future where everyone will always be able to see the mountains.