Utah lawmakers on Friday finalized a bill that calls for a state study of halogen emission sources along the Wasatch Front, while also coming up with a plan to reduce those emissions in the coming years.
It's the first major legislation tied to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report published in January that found that a magnesium plant in Tooele County was producing halogen emissions, especially bromine, that boosted pollution levels by as much as 25% in the region.
The Utah House of Representatives voted 72-0 to accept changes to HB220 that had been unanimously approved by the Utah Senate after a conference committee meeting Thursday afternoon. The bill was sent to the Utah Senate to be signed before it heads to Gov. Spencer Cox's desk for final approval.
"We have something that I think is a truly great bill, and I think this fourth (substitute) is really going to make progress with our air quality, and everyone's on board," said Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, the bill's sponsor, before Friday's vote.
Six legislators, including Stoddard and the bill's floor sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, as well as four other bicameral and bipartisan lawmakers, hashed out the final details in Thursday's special meeting.
They agreed on a bill that instructs the Utah Division of Air Quality to complete a study pinpointing where the sources of halogen emissions are in Box Elder, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties by the end of 2024. The agency will then compile a "best available control technology emissions reduction plan" to reduce halogen emissions, which must be implemented by the end of 2026.
"Rather than having a set reduction amount, the conference committee accepted a report that will direct the Division of Air Quality to inventory the point sources in the applicable geographic area, which is along the Wasatch Front," Cullimore said.
The agency's reports and plan will be published to the public for input, he added.
The original bill, introduced at the beginning of the legislative session, called on an incentives package to reduce air pollution along the Wasatch Front by 50% in the next seven years. It was amended to focus solely on bromine following the release of the NOAA study.
The chemical is not currently tracked by either the state or the federal government; Stoddard argued that the study would allow Utah to "get out ahead" of the Environmental Protection Agency on the matter.
The bill was tweaked again in the Utah House's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee last month, adding in all halogen emissions, including chemicals like chlorine, fluorine and iodine.
The Utah Division of Air Quality notes that halogen emissions can impact summertime ozone and wintertime PM 2.5 pollution levels.
The bill isn't the only change sparked by the study since it was released in January. Earlier this week, Cox asked the EPA to include the US Magnesium plant in Tooele County in the Northern Wasatch Front ozone nonattainment area.
US Magnesium is the largest producer of magnesium in North America. Magnesium is often used in all sorts of products, including laptops and power tools.
But the governor wrote in an official request that the plant was identified as a "major" industrial point source of volatile organic compounds that "contribute to the degradation" of the region's airshed. He added that the move would give Utah more power to implement ozone pollution reduction strategies.