The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) works to ensure that the air in Utah meets health and visibility standards established under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). DAQ ensures the state’s compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and visibility standards at its national parks, enacts rules pertaining to air-quality standards, develops plans to meet federal standards when necessary, issues preconstruction and operating permits to stationary sources, conducts research into Utah’s unique air-quality issues, and ensures compliance with state and federal air-quality rules.
Utah continues to make significant progress towards understanding and addressing the causes of seasonal air pollution. Increased public awareness and legislative funding for research have provided important support for the DAQ in its ongoing efforts to reduce pollution, improve air quality, and protect public health.
DAQ protects Utah’s air through a variety of program areas that protect, maintain, and enhance the air quality in the state.
The Compliance Branch ensures that industries and residents comply with Utah’s air-quality rules. The program, which includes inspections, compliance assistance, and enforcement, protects the public and the environment from air pollution and assists businesses with meeting the terms of their permit.
The branch is comprised of three sections:
- Major Source Compliance
- Minor Source Compliance
- Air Toxics, Lead-based Paint/Asbestos (ATLAS)
The Permitting Branch issues construction and operating permits to stationary sources that emit air pollutants to ensure they meet state and federal air-pollution standards.
The branch is comprised of three sections:
Major sources include facilities that emit 100 tons per year or more of any air pollutant, 10 tons per year or more of any single hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants. Minor NSR permits prevent the construction of sources that would interfere with attainment or maintenance of federal air-quality standards or violate the control strategy in nonattainment areas. The operating permits program improves enforcement by issuing sources a permit that consolidates all of the Clean Air Act requirements into a federally-enforceable document.
The Planning Branch develops comprehensive plans (State Implementation Plans (SIPs) and the Regional Haze SIP) to ensure that the state meets federal air-quality standards. It collects and analyzes the data to demonstrate the effectiveness of these plans, proposes rules to support these plans, and oversees programs that reduce pollution. Air monitoring staff measure and analyze air-quality conditions at over 20 air-monitoring stations throughout the state, provide accurate air-quality data, issue alerts, and forecast air-quality conditions through the UtahAir app and air.utah.gov.
Success Story: PM2.5 Nonattainment Areas in Attainment
The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has tackled a number of major air pollution challenges over the years, but none more difficult than PM2.5, the pollutant responsible for the state’s winter inversions. And the Division’s hard work paid off. This year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Clean Data Determination for the Salt Lake and Provo nonattainment areas. EPA’s announcement followed a similar determination for the Logan nonattainment area in 2018, meaning the state was in attainment for the federal 24-hour air-quality standard for PM2.5 for the first time in over a decade.
In 2006, EPA tightened the health standards for PM2.5 from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35 micrograms per cubic meter to reduce exposure to fine particulates. Research showed that PM2.5 poses a significant human health risk, lodging deep in the lungs and causing serious respiratory and cardiovascular issues. In 2009, EPA designated three areas in Utah — Salt Lake, Provo, and Logan– as nonattainment areas for PM2.5. These designations came with a requirement to develop a comprehensive State Implementation Plan (SIP) for each area along with a deadline for reducing fine particulate pollution levels to meet the federal standard.
DAQ joined forces with researchers, businesses, stakeholders, the Utah State Legislature, and members of the public to identify PM2.5 sources and come up with science-based solutions to reduce emissions. New regulations, air-quality research, targeted funding, and behavior changes by residents and businesses led to lower PM2.5 levels. DAQ is preparing maintenance plans to ensure these areas continue to meet federal air-quality standards.