By Lexie Wilson
This month, I had the unique opportunity to meet with some of Utah’s top air quality researchers at the first-annual Air Quality Research Roadmap (AiR2). AiR2 is a meeting of researchers and scientists to discuss, network, and make progress on solutions to Utah’s air quality problems. These scientists are on the frontlines in the fight against air pollution. Our goal is to improve air quality. This is something the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has been working on for quite a while.
This meeting came about because of efforts from Utah’s law makers. Before 2018, state-funded research on air quality at Utah’s universities and colleges was typically funded through one-time appropriations. Last year, the Utah Legislature approved $500,000 in ongoing funding for this type of research. This legislative funding comes with a mandate that the research leads to a benefit for Utah and its residents. Our focus is on science for solutions.
Researchers have played a key role in understanding Utah’s unique air pollution. Thanks to their work, we now know more. Scientists at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah have added to our knowledge on the impacts of wood smoke. Insights into Uinta Basin ozone pollution came from projects at Utah State University. Other Utah researchers have expanded our understanding of air exchanges across the Great Salt Lake and down Wasatch Front Canyons. These are just a few examples of the work done by Utah’s research community.
To facilitate discussion, DAQ drafted a list of research goals and priorities that staff presented at AiR2. Harnessing the broad knowledge base of the AiR2 participants, DAQ refined and improved its list of goals and priorities. The new list represents the kind of research topics that will make the most impact on understanding and improving air quality.
Using the feedback from the research community, DAQ crafted a request for proposals (RFP). Shortly, DAQ will send out this RFP and researches can apply for those grants. Financing for the grants will come from the ongoing funds made available through the legislature. DAQ’s Planning, Permitting and Compliance sections comprise a diverse review panel that will select winning research proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.
Communication and support between researchers and regulators is vital in fighting air pollution. Figuring out what research topics will benefit our state is crucial to effective solutions.
The daily choices a population makes have an impact on air quality. Increasing urban growth makes this impact even more pronounced. As public servants, the staff at DEQ is committed to the residents of Utah. We look for solutions to these real-world problems. Actively engaging researchers is a key step in finding fair, responsible solutions.
The Division of Air Quality will send out the request for proposals on Nov. 1, 2018. DAQ will award $500,000 from the ongoing annual funding to 3-8 projects.
Lexie Wilson is an environmental scientist in the Technical Analysis section at UDAQ. A physics graduate from the University of Utah, Lexie’s zeal for scientific research and passion for environmental protection motivate her work..