By Scott Baird
The atmosphere at the State Capitol Thursday night was one of mixed emotions. Legislators (and those of us that work with them) were both elated and exhausted as they completed the annual 45-day session of the Utah State Legislature.
This year’s appropriations and legislation ensure that we can continue our ongoing work of safeguarding and improving Utah’s air, land and water through balanced regulation.
This session was a great success for the Department of Environmental Quality as we were appropriated every request included in the Governor’s budget. We have a lot of work ahead of us for the coming year, but for now, we’d like to thank all of you for your support and help as we prepared for and worked through a great legislative session. We could not have accomplished this without you!
Below is a quick roundup of our new appropriations and some of the bills passed on Capitol Hill:
The legislatures final budget provides funding for harmful algal bloom (HAB) response, air-quality research, and funding to help local health departments respond to the environmental needs of their communities. The legislature also approved operating budgets and several of the Governor’s priority funding requests.
Harmful Algal Bloom Response
One-time funding was provided to allow the Division of Water Quality to monitor lakes and ponds in Utah. This money establishes a fund that will allow us to respond to reported algal blooms and sample sites we know pose potential threats. This will help the division provide more timely data on affected waterbodies and help resolve HABs more quickly.
Air Quality Research
Research in to the chemistry and meteorology of air quality in Utah was funded with an ongoing $500,000 appropriation. This will be used to improve our understanding of air pollution and look for ways to improve emissions inventories. Ultimately, we are looking for the best ways to combat air pollution and protect the health ofUtah residents.
SIP Planning Consultant
Utah must provide nine separate State Implementation Plans (SIP) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the next three years. A full-time position was funded to aid in crafting these plans to address federal regulations on air pollution.
Stack Testing Position
This new position will work in the compliance section to help test large industrial sources of emissions and anything with a new source performance standard under EPA regulations. The new hire will review pre-test protocols, audit stack tests and review post-test protocols to ensure they meet federal guidelines.
Technical Analysis Scientist Position
Recently, ammonia was identified as playing a larger role in air pollution. This new position will work to detect sources of ammonia emissions in Northern Utah and help identify balanced solutions to help reduce these emissions.
Local Health Department Funding
DEQ contracts with local health departments to better serve the environmental needs of communities throughout the state. The legislature approved $500,000 in ongoing funding to assist health departments in providing services.
Environmental bills and resolutions this session addressed a wide range of issues, including air quality, water quality and waste fees.
HB 76 Tire Recycling Amendments
Waste tires are becoming a growing problem in Utah and across the country. This bill increases the ability of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) to reimburse costs associated with the transportation and recycling of waste tires.
HB 373 Waste Management Amendments
HB 373 changes protocols for landfill inspections and allows for self-inspection. The bill funds an electronic inspection system that WMRC and landfills can use to verify compliance.
Companies that choose to self-inspect will still be subject to state inspections every five years. Landfills not participating in the new program will be inspected every 3-5 years. Landfills caught falsifying their self-inspection will pay larger penalties for their violations and potentially lose the ability to self-inspect.
HB 101 Air Quality Emission Testing Amendments
This bipartisan bill sets up a three-year pilot program for emission testing on diesel vehicles in counties with emission testing programs. It is estimated that the change will eliminate over 17 tons of pollution per year. The last five model years are exempt from testing. At the end of the three-year pilot program, regulators will report on the effectiveness of emissions testing on diesel vehicles.
HB 38 Fireworks Restrictions
Fireworks are a popular way to celebrate Independence Day and Pioneer Day in Utah. Fireworks also dramatically increase air pollution, ignite wildfires and cause bodily injuries. This bill helps reduce these risks by limiting the number of days fireworks can legally be set off in Utah. The bill also provides additional tools to local governments to enforce firework restrictions.
HB 303 Drinking Water Source Sizing Requirements
This bill specifies the minimum sizing requirement for a public drinking water system. It defines public water systems water-use data reporting to the Division of Drinking Water. The changes affect things like tank size and the amount of water needed from the source.
The new law allows public waters systems to base storage on historical water usage.
So, now that we’ve had a weekend to rest and catch our breath, it’s time to begin anew our preparations for next year’s legislative session. Please reach out to us and share your ideas, questions, or concerns, on how we can better serve our community, work towards our mission and ultimately achieve our vision of Clean air land and water for a healthy and prosperous Utah.
Check out our bill tracking webpage for a look at the environmental legislation introduced during the 2018 legislative session. Visit the Utah Legislature website for a complete list of the bills that were passed, their effective date, and the Governor’s action (signed or not).
As the Deputy Director over Policy, Planning and Operational Improvement, I enjoy working with legislators, stakeholders and our employees in finding ways to improve how we do our work. Prior to joining DEQ, I worked in the Governor’s Offices in Utah and Washington and with Deloitte Consulting in D.C., where I helped state and federal agencies identify and implement opportunities to improve. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree at Brigham Young University and my Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and JD degrees from Syracuse University. I LOVE to get outdoors and enjoy SKIING, running, hiking, backpacking, camping, working in the yard, fixing up our broken-down house, and anything else I can convince my wife and four daughters to do with me…oh yeah, and I really like ice cream!