Air Quality: Legislative Funding Helps Researchers Tackle Air Quality Problems

By Payden McRoberts

Oil and Gas Tanks in the Uinta Basin
Oil and Gas Tanks in the Uinta Basin

One million dollars. That sounds like a lot of money, right? Well, it is.The 2014 Legislature’s appropriation of $1 million to the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) for research projects is an important step towards finding solutions for Utah’s complex air quality problems.

After vetting a number of proposals last fall, DEQ awarded grants to 12 research projects that are being carried out by scientists at universities and institutions across the state. These researchers are looking for answers to a single question: how can the state successfully address Utah’s unique air quality issues?

Atmospheric chemistry is complicated, and Utah’s unique meteorology makes it difficult to apply broad-brush solutions. So this single question does not lend itself to easy answers. That’s why DAQ has partnered with top atmospheric scientists to gather information that will help the state find big-picture solutions for its air quality challenges. The research projects that DAQ selected will accomplish the following major objectives:

  • Fill data gaps in emissions inventories
  • Improve the accuracy of air quality modeling
  • Develop modeling tools to ascertain the sources of long-range transport of dust and wildfire smoke into Utah’s airshed
  • Use targeted monitoring studies to identify air pollution sources
Researchers Use a Helicopter to Gather Ozone Data
Researchers Use a Helicopter to Gather Ozone Data

As a student who is currently working at DAQ, I have had the opportunity to learn firsthand about these complex issues and what it takes to find scientific solutions to these difficult problems. What I have found most surprising is the amount of work that goes into protecting air quality in this state. There are so many important aspects of this issue that the scientists at DAQ have to consider. What does the science say about the causes of air pollution? What are the variables, and which ones are within our control and which ones are not? How can we regulate emissions while still supporting the economy and job growth in the state?

There are no easy answers.

My job has largely been to work with the great communications group at DAQ to inform residents about these complex air pollution issues, help them understand the causes of our air quality problems, and educate people who may not realize that these issues exist at all.

We need Utah solutions for Utah problems. It benefits all of us to become better informed about air quality in our state and find out what we can do to help reduce pollution. I’ve learned a lot during my time at DAQ, and I encourage you to become more knowledgeable too!

Payden McRoberts
Want to learn more about air quality in Utah? Visit the DAQ web page, attend an Air Quality Board meeting, or send an email to a scientist at DAQ or a local university. Talk with your local legislators about air quality issues and let them know your concerns. We appreciate Utah residents working with us and our researchers to be a part of the solution.

I am a student intern at DAQ working on communications and public outreach for the 2015 research projects. I study Environmental Science and Political Science at Brigham Young University. My wife and I have a 1-month-old baby and love Utah for its people and for the great outdoors.