By Alan Matheson
Every day, the nearly 400 employees of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) work tirelessly to improve the lives of all Utahns. These dedicated public servants safeguard Utah’s air, land, and water to support human health, a vibrant economy, and our unsurpassed quality of life.
DEQ’s successes are many, and impact everyday life. The mother who mixes formula for her baby trusting that the water from the tap is safe, the teacher who sends her students outside for recess seeing that DEQ’s strategies for improving air quality are working, the homeowner who puts his trash out knowing it will be disposed of safely and responsibly, and many others benefit from DEQ’s work.
Consider a few successes from the past year:
- With legislative funding for air quality research, we made significant progress in understanding the complex conditions that lead to elevated pollution levels during Utah’s winter inversions and summertime ozone Better understanding of the local conditions that contribute to poor air quality helps us craft more effective and less-costly strategies to improve air quality.
- We oversaw cleanup of the former 1,700-acre Geneva Steel mill site, turning an area of contamination into a mixed-use community that includes housing, retail, and office space.
- We helped Coalville break ground on a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant by providing financing and resolving some long-standing roadblocks.
- We met the growing need for clean drinking water throughout Utah, providing $576,000 for drinking-water system master plans and engineering studies, and another $14.6 million for 14 drinking-water construction projects. In addition, we finalized financial assistance packages totaling $24.8 million for 10 previously authorized water-system-improvement projects through loan closings or bond purchases.
Our work is increasingly challenging. The steady drip of federal regulations we must implement has become a torrent. The politics of the environment is often divisive. Demand for our services grows with our population. Environmental issues have become more technically complex and difficult to solve. Public budgets are tight.
To fulfill our mission in the face of such challenges, we adhere to 10 guiding principles:
- Common sense and the law—not ideology—guide our actions.
- We seek continuous improvement, implementing innovations that advance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness so we can achieve our mission at the lowest cost to hard-working taxpayers.
- Utahns need economic opportunity as well as clean air, water, and land, and these goals are complementary.
- We base our decisions on sound science and the best information available.
- On matters of policy, we defer to elected officials chosen by the people.
- We serve the public. We listen to and understand the diverse perspectives of Utah residents.
- We work collaboratively with the regulated community, elected officials, other government agencies, and the public to achieve positive, practical, and balanced results.
- We are open and transparent and make information about Utah’s environment and our work accessible to the public.
- We maintain a long-term perspective. Our obligation runs to future Utahns as well as to those who live here today.
- Character matters. Who we are is as important as what we do. We act with uncompromising integrity.
One of the defining characteristics of Utah is our stewardship ethic—a drive to leave the world better for those who follow. We at DEQ share that drive, and building on past success, pledge to continue our work to create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous Utah.
I invite you to read the 2015 State of the Environment Report to learn more about what the people of DEQ do each day to make your life better. You will read examples of how we are implementing our guiding principles and overcoming daunting challenges. I am proud of our employees, who constantly seek better ways to protect Utah’s natural wonder and secure our economic future.
I am the executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.