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DEQ’s CAP Bridges the Gap with Small Businesses

By Paul Harding

Click on photo for a larger view

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is committed to working with small businesses to safeguard the quality of our air, land, and water. But we are also committed to helping these businesses understand the environmental regulations that affect their operations, listening to their concerns, and exploring strategies and technologies that can protect both our environment AND their bottom line. The Utah Small Business Compliance Advisory Panel (CAP) is one way we ensure that small business sectors have easy access to our staff and the information they need to comply with environmental regulations. The CAP also serves as a sounding board for small businesses, providing them with an opportunity to offer input on existing and proposed regulations.

Compliance Advisory Panels (CAPs): The Clean Air Act

On November 15, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAA) into law. These amendments to the 1970 Act extended federal clean-air controls to small businesses after studies indicated that new federal controls on smaller air-pollution sources were needed to adequately address air-quality problems.

Section 507 of the CAA Amendments included provisions requiring all state governments to create Small Business Technical Compliance Assistance Programs to assist small businesses in complying with these new air-pollution control responsibilities. One provision required states to establish Small Business Compliance Advisory Panels (CAPs) consisting of representatives of small businesses and members of the general public.

Utah’s Small Business Compliance Advisory Panel (CAP)

DEQ’s Small Business CAP  provides input to the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) regarding the needs of small businesses. This information, in turn, helps DAQ help small businesses comply with state and federal air-pollution laws.

Utah’s CAP, comprised of seven formal members, meets quarterly. Two members are selected by the governor, four by the legislature, and one by the Executive Director of DEQ. This selection process ensures a broad range of participants. To qualify as a small business under state law, the company must have 100 employees or less and fall below the emissions threshold of a Major Source as defined by state regulations.

Better Communication, Better Regulations

It has been my good fortune to coordinate the Small Business CAP for our state. The volunteer panel helps DAQ make the regulatory process more effective by bringing in the voices of small businesses from sectors that might otherwise not be represented. My position gives me the opportunity to observe the many advantages of collaboration between the private sector, the small business community, and the public sector (DAQ).

I see Small Business CAP representatives benefiting professionally from their participation as they become more knowledgeable about environmental regulations. Members become familiar with DAQ, so they know who to contact with questions and feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it. In turn, they share the knowledge they gain from their interactions with DAQ staff with their professional associations and organizations. DAQ scientists and regulators benefit from their participation in the Small Business CAP. DAQ personnel attending CAP meetings not only gain a better appreciation for the challenges faced by small-business owners, they also forge good working relationships with its members, and by extension, with other small-business owners.

The CAP also facilitates two-way communication between DAQ and the regulated community. For example, when DAQ needs to disseminate information about proposed or existing rules to unique business sectors, the business members of the CAP can communicate this message to their associates, either directly or through organizational channels. In addition, CAP members can help craft the message so it is understandable to the intended audience.

It has been a pleasure to see the mutual respect that has naturally evolved from an association of professionals who are intent on helping one another. The Small Business CAP demonstrates that by working together, we can find a balance between environmental protection and economic development, one that benefits both our air and our quality of life.

If you are a small business owner or member of the public interested in becoming a member of Utah’s Small Business CAP, please contact me at 801-536-4108 or The terms for the two positions for the general public have expired, and several positions for small business representatives will expire soon. We’re looking for new members, and hope you will consider applying to serve on the panel.
If you represent a small business and would like to participate informally, have an issue you feel would be appropriate for the Small Business CAP to address, or have any other questions or comments, feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.  

I am a Utah native, and I graduated from BYU with a degree in geology. I have had the privilege of serving the people of Utah for the last 24 years as an environmental scientist for the Utah Department of Environmental (DEQ). I spent my first 17 years as an inspector in the Underground Storage Tank Program. Just over seven years ago, I accepted a position in Business Assistance, working in the Office of the Executive Director. I work with businesses in a number of capacities for DEQ, including as the Ombudsman. I’m part of the DEQ Ultimate gang who play Ultimate Frisbee for exercise at lunch. I live in Salt Lake with my husband, Brett, and our two dogs, Frankie and Bernie.

This entry was originally published on October 16th, 2017 and posted in news.

DEQ: Tips for Making Public Comments Count

By Donna Kemp Spangler

A full house at a DEQ public hearing. DEQ encourages the public to participate in the agency’s decision-making process.

I understand people’s frustrations when they take the time to submit a written or verbal public comment on a regulatory proposal and at the end of the process, the final rule or regulation doesn’t seem to reflect their comment. They walk away with a feeling their comment doesn’t really matter.

That’s not entirely true. Public participation is essential to developing more effective rules and regulations. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) depends on it. When drafting a rule, DEQ scientists do their best to base it on science and the law. They reach out to experts, but they also count on the public and others to identify flaws and offer solutions to reach a better outcome: protective, reasonable regulations without unintended consequences.

DEQ’s five divisions rely on their governing boards to enact rules and regulations based on staff recommendations. The Division of Air Quality (DAQ), for instance, is seeking public comment on proposals that streamline the oil-and-gas permitting process. The Air Quality Board has set a public comment period to run from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, 2017. Public hearings are scheduled for Oct. 19 in Salt Lake City and Oct. 25 in Vernal.

In light of these proposals, I asked Mark Berger, manager of the Air Quality Policy Section, and Joel Karmayzn, an air-quality scientist who drafts many of the air-quality rules, to provide some tips for making effective public comments.

Keys to Effective Public Comments

Comments that provide new information the agency has not yet considered or offer possible solutions to the problem are helpful.

Point out unintended consequences

For instance, DAQ staff recommended exemptions to the recently proposed solvent rule for certain types of consumer products that are environmentally friendly. This recommended change to the proposed rule is based on comments that lowering the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) content requirements in solvents without including exclusions for high-vapor pressure solvents is counter to using environmentally friendly solvents.

Show up with technical expertise

Industrial commenters are able to provide industry specific analytical information that is beyond DAQ’s expertise, thereby helping to refine the rules. For instance, advancements made in aerospace technology and composite materials have made some pollutant categories obsolete.

Point to a solution, rather than just the problem

Although helpful to explain why a rule doesn’t work, it is more helpful to suggest alternatives and substitute language for the requested change. For instance, staff is recommending to the Air Quality Board that the solvent rule exempt solvents used in analytical laboratories after commenters pointed out that those same solvents are required by the Environmental Protection Agency-approved analytical methods.

Common Comment Mistakes

public comment

How to make effective public comments. Click on photo for a larger view

Comments that offer opinions or raise questions unrelated to the proposed rule or permit are not-so-helpful.

Use comments as votes

The public comment process is not a vote – one well-supported comment is often more informative than a hundred emails or form letters that raise the same point. DEQ will not respond to each one, but will note it received the same comment multiple times.

Make comments that are NOT specific to the rulemaking proposal

Read and understand the proposal you are commenting on. For example, if the proposed regulation is reducing VOCs in wood furniture coatings, but the comment is about banning wood smoke, that comment isn’t relevant to the issue at hand, and staff won’t respond to it.

Provide comments beyond the authority of the Air Quality Board

You may have a great suggestion for improving Utah’s air, but it may require Legislative or Governor approval. Understanding the regulatory authority can help support your claims.

Ask questions on a proposed rule rather than offering comments

Questions are welcomed! However, they are not considered comments. If you have one, give the contact person a call. DAQ includes contact information for its rule experts on the public-comment page. Often getting clarification on a question will help you formulate a better comment.

Public participation matters! DEQ welcomes and encourages it. We are committed to using the public notice and comment process to improve the decisions we make. If you have additional questions about the public notice and comment process for a specific proposal, please contact us at (800) 458-0145, or visit our website at Visit our webpage “Making Effective Public Comments to DEQ” for answers to frequently asked questions and additional information on the public comment process.

Donna Spangler I am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I write an occasional blog. You can find me on Twitter @deqdonna.

This entry was originally published on October 10th, 2017, updated on October 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Volkswagen Settlement to Reduce Emissions, Improve Utah Air

By Lisa Burr

2010 Volkswagen Golf with defeat device. Photo credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Efforts to improve Utah’s air quality are getting a big boost thanks to a nationwide $15.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen (VW) for violations of the Clean Air Act.

Utah is set to receive approximately $35 million from the settlement to offset nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from the approximately 7,000 VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles in the state affected by VW’s violations. Governor Herbert designated the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as the lead agency to administer these monies.

DEQ is seeking public input for the Environmental Mitigation Plan (EMP) that will identify the categories of eligible vehicles/equipment to be funded. The public input process begins November 1, 2017, and ends November 30, 2017.

Volkswagen Settlement: A Brief History

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Notice of Violation against VW for installing “defeat devices” that falsified emission-certification results in VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel passenger vehicles. While the vehicles complied with federal limits during certification testing, they emitted up to 40 times the federal NOx limit under normal driving conditions.

VW ultimately admitted to secretly installing “cheat” software in some of its model year 2009-2016 diesel vehicles. Approximately 500,000 vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines and 80,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter engines were fitted with the illegal software.

DEQ determined that excess NOx emissions from the affected VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles contributed an estimated 230.1 tons-per-year to Utah’s airsheds. Approximately 70 percent of the affected vehicles are registered in the seven counties designated as nonattainment for particulate matter (PM2.5) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

DEQ’s Role

Weight class 8. Click on photo for larger view.

DEQ’s responsibilities as lead agency include the development of an Environmental Mitigation Plan. The VW settlement identified certain categories of vehicles and equipment that are eligible for funding under the agreement. Utah’s EMP will determine which categories the state will target for that funding. Eligible engine or vehicle/equipment replacements include:


  • Class 8 local freight trucks (large trucks)
  • Class 4-8 school buses, shuttle buses, or transit buses
  • Freight switchers
  • Class 4-7 local freight trucks (medium trucks)
  • Airport ground-support equipment
  • Forklifts
Volkswagen Settlement

Weight Class 4-7. Click on photo for larger view.

In addition, the settlement allows the state to use up to 15 percent of its allocation for certain light-duty, zero-emission vehicle supply equipment and light-duty, hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle supply equipment. Utah can also use the funds as part of its non-federal voluntary match for Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) projects.

DEQ Executive Director Alan Matheson created an advisory committee to develop recommendations for Utah’s EMP. The committee, composed of representatives from multiple organizations, was asked to identify and evaluate eligible mitigation actions, suggest funding options, and develop recommendations for public review and comment. The committee recommended funding allocations from the settlement monies as follows:

  • Fifty-two percent for Class 8 (large) local freight trucks
  • Twenty-five percent for Class 4-7 (medium) local freight trucks
  • Eleven percent for light-duty, zero-emission-vehicle supply equipment
  • Seven percent for Class 4-8 school buses, shuttle buses, or transit buses
  • Five percent for administrative costs

These recommendations, along with input from the public, will help guide DEQ in its development of the final EMP.

Public Participation

The agency invites the public to comment on Utah’s EMP during a public-input process beginning November 1, 2017, and ending November 30, 2017. Commenters can use an interactive calculator to help them evaluate eligible vehicle/equipment categories and associated costs for NOx reductions before making their selections. DEQ will summarize the selections and comments received during the public comment period and make them available to the public for review.

DEQ is also developing a Request for Information (RFI) process to give private and public fleet owners the opportunity to submit specific vehicle/equipment replacements to the agency for evaluation for potential funding. Fleet owners can register on the State’s Supplier Portal, SciQuest, to receive an email notification when the RFI process begins.


The VW Settlement funding offers Utah a great opportunity to improve its air quality, protect the health of its residents, and help businesses “green” their fleets with cleaner transportation options.

We want to hear from you! Mark your calendar so you can provide input when the comment period opens. Your input will help us select projects that offset pollution generated by the VW defeat devices and reduce NOx emissions in the state for years to come.
Want to learn more about the settlement? Visit our new VW Settlement webpage to find detailed information  about the settlement process, consent decree terms, eligible projects, and the work of the VW Advisory Committee. 

I have worked for the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) for eight years. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree from Weber State University and was employed there for 13 years before coming to DAQ. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, camping, traveling, and spending time with my sisters (that’s me on the right.)

This entry was originally published on October 2nd, 2017, updated on October 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Partnership Ensures Clean Air, Land and Water in the Uinta Basin

By Jared Mendenhall

The Uinta Basin faces dozens of unique environmental issues. Safeguarding air, land and water in the region requires state and local agencies to work together.

Jordan Mathis, health officer and executive director of TriCounty Health Department, which serves Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett counties.

Resourcefulness is as much a part of the frontier ethos as individualism. Coming up with ingenious solutions to life’s problems — on the cheap — is an essential skill in the rural expanses of the American West.

Jordan Mathis, health officer and executive director of TriCounty Health Department, understands this. In fact, he lives it daily as he works to promote, protect and improve the health of residents in Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett counties.

This was especially evident in his earliest weeks on the job. As fate would have it, TriCounty was the first district in Utah to have a resident travel from one of the African countries affected by Ebola.

As soon as TriCounty Health was aware of the possible infection, a plan was hatched. Mathis led efforts to coordinate the response with county officials and local health-care providers. Some of the ingenious solutions he came up to handle the potential outbreak included checking in daily with the patient over Apple’s FaceTime app to see if he was showing any signs of Ebola and, if needed, commandeering a county-owned RV trailer to act as a mobile quarantine and treatment station.

The patient never developed any symptoms and the crisis was averted.

That pioneering spirit of improvisation and maximizing resources, however, is in play each day in the relationship TriCounty Health shares with Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality and plays a key role in protecting the air, land and water in the Uinta Basin

The unique wintertime ozone in the Uinta Basin isalmost exclusively driven by VOC emissions from oil-and-gas production. When large amounts of these precursors are trapped in thermal inversions, which are typical in the Basin, there is enough power in the UV reflection from the snow on the ground to spark the chemical reactions that create ozone.

One of the success stories of this partnership is highlighted by the work being done to address the unique wintertime ozone in the region. Working with the Bingham Center at Utah State University, they have made advancement in identifying the extent and causes of ozone pollution in the Basin.

These efforts have shown that the ozone pollution was almost exclusively driven by VOC emissions from oil-and-gas production. When large amounts of these precursors are trapped in thermal inversions, which are typical in the Basin, there is enough power in the UV reflection from the snow on the ground to spark the chemical reactions that create ozone.

Ongoing monitoring and outreach programs are now helping to address air quality in the region.

Nathan Hall, DEQ district engineer, tests groundwater in neighborhood outside Rosevelt, Utah.

The point person in DEQ’s relationship with TriCounty Health is the district engineer, a DEQ employee stationed in the area works hand-in-hand with the health department. The engineer is the go-to guy for each of DEQ’s five divisions – Air Quality, Water Quality, Drinking Water, Waste Management and Radiation Control, and Environmental Response and Remediation.

This, however, is just one part of the partnership between the two agencies. TriCounty and DEQ have a formal work plan that outlines responsibilities and funding for various environmental projects in the Basin. A few of the projects outlined in the 2016 work plan include the implementation of a wood-burning stove education plan, ensuring source protection for drinking water, and protecting public health from exposure to contamination caused by improper disposal of solid and hazardous waste.

The quality of life in the Uinta Basin depends on this work plan every day to ensure that tap water is clean, sewer systems are working, and environmental messes are cleaned up.

Safeguarding Utah’s air, land and water requires unique, creative approaches. Agencies like TriCounty Health and DEQ will continue to find areas where they can work together to ensure state and local agencies are responsible for taxpayer dollars and maximize efforts in serving the citizens of Utah through balanced regulation.

To learn more about ozone pollution in the Uinta Basin, click here.

I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.

This entry was originally published on September 25th, 2017, updated on October 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

At DEQ, It’s Always Mission POSSIBLE

By The Fun Committee

mission possible

Nicole Pellicori sends a water balloon flying during the DEQ Picnic.

Our Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees don’t just “talk the talk” when it comes to our mission, vision, and values. We live it, individually and collectively, every day. We know that clean air, land, and water are important to the people of Utah, and we take our responsibility to safeguard these precious resources very seriously.

But we’re not always serious! Sometimes we need to reboot, clear our minds, and enjoy ourselves with our colleagues at our annual DEQ picnic.

This year, we wanted to focus on our DEQ “Mission, Vision and Values” as the theme for our annual picnic, so the DEQ Fun Committee (yes, that’s our committee’s name, and we’re proud of it!) decided to do a play on the Mission ImPossible theme. (Peter Graves for us older folks, and Tom Cruise for you millennials.) We chose this play-on-words because we believe our mission is ALWAYS possible, and we work hard every day to make sure we fulfill it.

Our mission (should we choose to accept it…and WE DO!) is “safeguarding and improving Utah’s air, land and water through balanced regulation.” This doesn’t happen by walking into work and sitting at a desk. It takes dedication, pride, and the right people—people who are willing to live our four values:

  • Exceptional Service
  • Commitment to Employees
  • Credibility and Trust
  • Continuous Improvement

As part of our theme, we focused on our value of “Exceptional Service.” For us, exceptional service isn’t just about our customers and stakeholders, it’s also about the “service” we can provide to our communities through work-sponsored donation and service opportunities.


Our service project for the summer was “Fill-The-Cube.” Our “mission” was providing families at the Road Home Family Center in Midvale with needed clothing and supplies. We put out plastic bins on each floor for employees to place their donations. Each Friday, we unloaded the bins and placed the items in an empty cubicle on the second floor.  We were amazed by the generosity of our staff! By the end of the summer, the cubicle was filled to overflowing, and we had collected an additional $378 in cash donations for the Center.

mission possible

DEQ employees loading up the vans with donations to the Road Home

Early in the morning on the day of our picnic, DEQ employees packed all the donations into two large vans. When we arrived at the Center, the children were already waiting for the school bus. The coordinator came up to us and thanked us for providing the children with school clothes and other needed items for their families. We even filled up all their donation bins!! It was so rewarding to see that we were able to make a difference.

Commitment to Employees

One of our DEQ values is “Commitment to Employees.” While that usually entails professional development, employee support, and training opportunities, our Executive Director Alan Matheson thinks it’s important for us to have fun, too! The picnic is a great way for us to come together as a department and not worry about the normal responsibilities we face every day. When you work that hard, you also need to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

mission possible

The picnic was a combination of great food, fun games, and time spent together in a beautiful place. As you can see from the pictures, we really enjoy being with each other! After months of drafting permits, attending meetings, and collecting water samples, we can still kick back with a friendly game of horseshoes, a competitive game of kickball, and a take-no-prisoners water-balloon fight. And who knew how exciting playing bingo could be? Best of all, our Fun Committee was able to make this all happen on a very tight budget.

mission possible

Jodi Gardberg doesn’t mess around when she’s playing kickball

Thanks to the support of so many, we were able to have this amazing picnic and put a service project together that was such a great blessing to the shelter. When our employees see a need — whether it’s finding ways to improve our air, land, and water, or helping those in our community — we  meet it head on!

mission possible

Scott Baird takes aim at the photographer

Thanks to all the DEQ employees who contributed to our Fill-the-Cube service project and brought their sense of play and good humor to our picnic!
mission possible

Marie Owens frightens Alan Matheson with her T-shirt.

The Fun Committee:
  • Elisa Smith (Division of Environmental Response and Remediation)  
  • Deborah Ng (Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control)  
  • Arlene Lovato (Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control)  
  • Dyani Wood (Division of Drinking Water)
  • Gary Kobzeff (Division of Drinking Water)  
  • Jay Baker (Division of Air Quality) 
  • Nicole Pellicori (Finance) 
  • Laurie Leib (Finance)  
  • Jodie Swanson (DEQ Web Team)
  • Catherine Llewelyn (DEQ Front Desk) 
  • Jenny Potter (Executive Director’s Office) 

This entry was originally published on September 18th, 2017, updated on September 21st, 2017, and posted in news.

Ozone: Dog Days of Summer Have Us All Panting For Cleaner Air

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Many people have said to me this summer, “It seems like we’ve had a lot of unhealthy air days.” Turns out, it’s true. Utah is experiencing the worst air pollution, particularly ozone, in a decade. Record heat and massive wildfires have taken their toll on Utah’s air. As a result, the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is seeing some of the highest number of exceedances of the federal ozone standard in the last ten years.




DAQ monitors and records the federal ozone standard, set at 70 parts per billion (ppb), over an eight-hour period. When that standard is violated on any given day, it is recorded as an “exceedance.” As of Labor Day 2017, Salt Lake County has had more non-compliance days (22) since 2007 (40). Davis County has nearly set its record of 15, last seen in 2008. Only Utah County has seen a slight decline in ozone this year.




Ozone occurs as a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds – emissions largely from motor vehicles, but also consumer products, gasoline-powered lawn equipment, and industrial sources. During the summer, these chemicals react with sunlight to create ozone, and as temperatures change throughout the day, so do the levels of ozone. Subtle changes can move the ozone needle either above or below the healthy mark. Ozone can be harmful to sensitive populations, such as individuals with lung disease or asthma, children and older adults. On days when the ozone is higher than the federal standard, sensitive groups are cautioned to reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion. But on occasion, the levels are so unhealthy, everyone should heed the warnings.

If there is a silver lining to this bad year, the trends show that the air is improving, thanks to several notable steps, including:

  • Encouraging refineries to produce cleaner “Tier 3”
  • Enacting 30 new rules that reduce emissions from the “area sources” that contribute 39 percent of our air pollution. As an example, one of those regulations requires that consumer products sold in Utah be formulated to reduce air-polluting components. This step will remove 2,000 tons of pollutants from our air annually.
  • Urging the public to drive less or use public transit.

The tricky thing about ozone is it’s invisible. You can’t judge the air quality just by how it looks. Just because it looks hazy, doesn’t necessarily mean the air quality conditions are unhealthy. That’s why it’s important to check the quality of air each day by going to DAQ’s web page. You can learn more about what you can do to protect your health and improve Utah’s air by visiting UCAIR or Utah Clean Air Partnership.

As bad as it’s been, relief is in sight. Cooler temps can give us a respite before the upcoming winter inversion season hits. In the meantime, don’t take air quality for granted. On a clear and healthy day, share a picture on Instagram, and tag DEQ.

Donna SpanglerI am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I am a frequent blog contributor. You can read my previous blog posts at You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

This entry was originally published on September 11th, 2017, updated on September 11th, 2017, and posted in news.