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Utah Celebrates Ten Years of “Idle-Free”

By Tammie Bostick-Cooper, Guest Blogger

September marks the 10th year of the Idle-Free Governor’s Declaration in Utah. Our state had the first Idle-Free campaign in the nation, and it all started in Salt Lake City. Since 2007, more than 50 Utah mayors have signed the declaration. And in 2011, Salt Lake City–where it all began–became the second city in Utah to adopt an Idle-Free ordinance.

The “Idle-Free in Utah” Declaration plays an important role in the progress being made towards cleaner air in the state. Idling vehicles emit particulate matter and other pollutants that are known to cause serious health problems. Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah, and unnecessary idling contributes a significant amount of emissions into our air shed each day.

Air quality is a complex issue. There is no “silver bullet” solution to solving our air-pollution challenges. The Idle-Free Campaign helps each of us understand the importance of taking small steps to help to clean the air. It also helps us understand that each action we can take, however small it may seem, combines with the actions that others take to make real improvement.

Our state leadership paved the way for Idle Free over the past ten years. In 2008, Representative Christine Johnson and Senator Mike Dmitrich sponsored House Bill 146, which required the State Board of Education, in consultation with local school districts and the State Air Quality Board, to implement an idling-reduction program for all school-bus drivers in the state and adopt idling reduction standards in their operations. In 2010, Representative Carol Spackman Moss and Senator Patricia Jones sponsored House Joint Resolution 5, encouraging drivers of passenger vehicles to avoid idling for more than 10-15 seconds. This resolution also encouraged drivers of delivery vehicles and long-haul truck operators to use one of several available idle-control technologies, such as auxiliary power units and truck stop electrification, to reduce the need to idle in our unique climate. Legislation like this encourages business owners to post anti-idling signage and information for their customers to refrain from idling.

With support from this legislation, Utah Clean Cities, all Utah School Districts, and the Utah State Board of Education developed and put into place a school-bus idling-reduction program and elementary-student education plan to inform youth and the general public about the benefits of reduced idling. The Idle-Free Education Program, developed by Utah Clean Cities, Breathe Utah, and the Utah Society for Environmental Education and the State Health Department’s Asthma Program and Recess Guide, has reached more than 10,000 students across 400 schools.

This month we not only start the 10th Idle-Free Campaign but also Utah’s official Idle-Free Season, the time of year when we experience winter inversions and poor air quality.

You may ask yourself as an individual, as a member of your community and a citizen of the state of Utah what can you do? It’s simple. Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free. It’s a ten second commitment and everyone can do it. We are all in this together.

Join us at our anniversary event on Wednesday, September 6th at 9 a.m. at the Utah State Capitol! The event will highlight idle-free milestones, led by the State Board of Education with idle-free bus policies, and recognize the first Utah Cities to be Idle-Free: Park City, Salt Lake City, Alta, Holladay, Logan, Cottonwood Heights, and Murray. Hope to see you there!
Other significant successes will be celebrated across the state with local Idle-Free campaigns at schools, government entities, businesses, fleets, and communities.

I am the Executive Director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, joining UCC in 2015 as the Northern Coordinator. I consider my career at Utah Clean Cities a dream job of collaborative work, thinking globally and acting locally in a world where everyone is an ally. I believe there has never been a more compelling time to be involved with transportation and to answer the urgent call to change our dependence on imported fossil fuels. There are no perfect fuels, but there are practical solutions leading to them.

I grew up ranching and close to nature. I graduated from the University of Utah and worked with children on the Ute Indian Reservation. I raised two smart and capable children, Alexia and Cole Cooper, in a small, off-the-grid cabin in the high Uintas. Both attend Westminster College in Salt Lake.