Air quality is an issue across Utah.

Even areas in the southern part of the state are becoming plagued with the effects of industrialization, vehicle exhaust and overall declining air quality, Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said.

In a news conference Wednesday, the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus released a list of bills, budget requests and resolutions to address air quality in the state.

Twelve bills related to air quality are currently going through the legislative process and at least two more might be considered.

Everything from landscaping requirements, air quality monitoring filters, a special Great Salt Lake license plate that would fund education and research on the lake and more were presented at the press conference.

Briscoe said there is a push to adopt renewable energy nationwide and hopes Utah will continue to pursue that trend.

“The governor’s appropriation of $25.5 million for free fare UTA is high on my priority list,” he said.

A newly released report from a group of organizations calling itself the Great Salt Lake Strike Team provided lawmakers data, insights and policy options to help devise strategies to restore the ailing lake to health.

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Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall bikes to work with city employees and the public in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall bikes to work with city employees and the public from Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. Mendenhall hosts quarterly public Bike to Work events to highlight Salt Lake City’s bike routes and encourage transportation options that are better for air quality. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The report, called “Great Salt Lake Policy Assessment,” summarized the known and declining conditions of the lake.

Linked to the shrinking conditions at the Great Salt Lake, air quality in Utah is an issue legislators aim to address.

“Dust from GSL will likely lead to violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” the report said. This dust, which contains a high concentration of arsenic, would only worsen air quality over time.

The report recommends a benchmark level of 4,198 feet, and said, “50% of the dust hotspots occur at elevations below 4,198 feet. 80% occur at elevations below 4,202 feet.” According to the report, the lake hit a record low of 4,190 feet in 2022, leaving it below the recommended benchmark level.

Earlier this year, lawmakers considered two pieces of legislation aimed at helping the lake.

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One resolution, SCR6, was held in the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee last week. It proposes to create a research recommended goal to increase and help track lake levels to the elevation of 4,198 feet.

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Briscoe said he wants the Legislature to make the Great Salt Lake and air quality an even bigger priority in the future.

Also, he said he hopes more people will to switch to electric vehicles, touting an appropriation request for electric vehicle charging stations across the state.

Briscoe also encouraged those who can afford it to switch to solar powered homes, and “paying a little bit more money,” to use longer-lasting appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers.