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Environmental Regulators Are People Too

By Donna Kemp Spangler

It’s easy to blame pollution problems on nameless, faceless environmental bureaucrats. The air is bad, so it must be their fault for giving the green light to industry to pollute in urban areas. Land and water contamination? How could our environmental protectors allow such a thing to happen?

We can all be outraged when bad things happen to our environment. And
we at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are people who share that outrage. We have hopes, dreams, families and a commitment to making the environment better.

When the criticism is directed at us, regulators who are trying to fix the problem, it’s hard not to take it personally. As the Communications Director for DEQ, I get the calls from people who can’t breathe when the air is bad and from parents who want to know why their children can’t go outside during recess. I wish I could wave a magic wand that would instantly transform the polluted skies into clear, fresh air. Instead, I try to do what collectively will make a difference to help our air if we all engage: take public transit, buy air-friendly products, don’t idle and follow the suggestions from our nonprofit partner UCAIR.

And pray for a stiff wind.

Donna Kemp SpanglerIn honor of Earth Day, the blogs posted over the past 12 days are from DEQ employees who have a commitment and passion to not only protect the environment but also make it better. We live and work in Utah because we love our quality of life here. For me, it was a trip to southern Utah as an environmental reporter when I had that awe-inspiring moment: the sun setting on the red rock of Bryce Canyon on my way to Escalante that literally made me stop my vehicle and marvel at its beauty. That was more than 15 years ago.

I thought I would eventually return to my Northwest roots, but I made Utah my home because I fell in love with the beauty and an archaeologist, Jerry Spangler, who runs the nonprofit Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, and shares a passion and commitment to preserving Utah’s environment.

Like me, many of us at DEQ love what we do. It’s challenging at times when constrained by realities of a layer-cake of state and federal laws. But whether it’s writing a permit or overseeing a cleanup, our goal is to make the environment a better place for all of us. It’s not just a job—it’s a passion. For us Earth Day is every day.

Follow us on Twitter (@UtahDEQ, @deqdonna), like us on Facebook (utahdeq) and come back to our blog weekly to share with us your thoughts and passions about Utah’s environment.

A 1986 graduate of University of Portland, I devoted much of my career writing about politics and environment for newspapers in the Northwest. A former environmental reporter for the Deseret News, I also covered biathlon during the 2002 Winter Olympics. I did a brief stint in Washington D.C. as a reporter before joining DEQ in 2006, where I was appointed Communications Director in 2010. I’m most proud to be a co-author with my husband, Jerry Spangler, on books about Nine Mile Canyon.

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