After a nearly three-year process, the Utah Division of Air Quality has come up with a proposed plan to bring Utah’s nonattainment zones into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s PM 2.5 air quality standard.
These zones cover Provo, Logan and Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake City zone includes areas in Davis County, parts of Weber and Box Elder counties, and essentially the Tooele Valley in Tooele County. Most of the areas within the zone don’t meet federal air quality standards for fine-particle pollution. However, Tooele County’s inclusion is because it is deemed to contribute to poor air quality in other areas, according to EPA officials.
On Dec. 15, 2009, the EPA stated that Utah was required to submit a nonattainment plan for each of these areas no later than three years from that date, which was when the areas were designated as nonattainment areas. As a result of this process, the Utah Air Quality Board has come up with a proposed state implementation plan that will be available for public comment during the month of October. The plan includes control measures for area and point sources of PM 2.5 for the Salt Lake City, Provo and Logan nonattainment areas. The final plan will go into action on Dec. 15.
“The plan we’ve been working on for PM 2.5 was approved by the Air Quality Board this month, and will be out for public comment during October,” said Bryce Bird, DAQ director. “Besides the comments people can make, we also have public hearings scheduled.”
In 2006, the EPA revised its 24-hour standard for PM 2.5 — fine-particulate pollution made up of dust and soot — from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. PM 2.5 is approximately 1/30th the size of an average human hair. This type of pollution comes from power plants, vehicle emissions, wood burning stoves, industrial processes and diesel-powered vehicles such as buses and semi-trucks. It’s considered dangerous because it can cause serious respiratory problems.
As part of the proposed plan, the board is also specifically seeking public input regarding whether several of the control measures proposed in the plan should apply in Box Elder and Tooele counties.
These control measures all pertain to limiting volatile organic compound emissions from various industrial operations, including from automotive refinishing sources, graphic arts printing operations, metal parts and products coating operations, flat wood paneling coating sources, ovens of magnet wire coating operations, large appliance surface coating operations, metal furniture surface coating operations, fabric and vinyl coating operations, wood furniture manufacturing and aerospace coatings and adhesives.
Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst feels if these proposed control measures are all enforced in Tooele County, fewer companies will look at setting up shop in the county.
“When companies look at relocating, they look at restrictions,” he said. “If the restrictions are such that it will cost them money, they’ll relocate to another area where they aren’t as many restrictions.”
Bird said the largest impact of these control measures will be to small businesses that fit within the proposed categories.
“There is a cost per ton of emissions calculated for each control measure,” Bird said. “Some of them will be no cost control measures because the controls will result in saving emissions, but the high range is in the $5,000 to $7,000 per ton of emissions reduced. It will differ for each company depending on how many emissions they’re releasing. Most of the controls are relatively cost effective.”
These control measures would only be applicable to companies that have the potential to release 2.7 tons or more per year of volatile organic compounds from these processes. Volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, according to the EPA. They include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. These products include paints, paint strippers and other solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, and stored fuels and automotive products. These products can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea. In severe cases, they can cause damage to people’s liver, kidneys and central nervous system, according to the EPA.
“Contaminants that are causing health problems need to be regulated, but we’ve got to be real about it,” Hurst said.
Bird said requiring Tooele County residents to have emissions inspections on their cars was part of the original analysis work, but it was determined that requiring the emissions test didn’t have a reasonable cost benefit.
“An emissions testing plan is not in place for either Tooele or Box Elder counties,” Bird said. “In order for us to justify a control strategy, there needs to be a reasonable cost benefit. We looked at the cost to establish an emissions program in the county, and looked at the amount of cars and emissions reductions from cars. If there was an emissions program in place versus one not in place, it wouldn’t make much of a difference in Salt Lake City [nonattainment area]. We couldn’t justify a need for it.”
On the heavy industrial operation side, Bird said DAQ officials did the same analysis they did for emissions testing, and found that it wasn’t reasonable to place extreme control measures on these operations.
“The reason the control measures aren’t needed is because a lot of those companies have been looked at before and have already had controls installed,” Bird said. “For a lot of them, federal requirements are already in place.”
Hurst said Tooele County has always been well below the standard and was unfairly brought into the nonattainment area.
“We’ve fought that and fought that,” he said. “We even filed a lawsuit, but we lost it. We’re part of a nonattainment area by association because of our proximity to Salt Lake, but I’ve never seen where we’ve been above the minimum standard.”
Hurst hopes that Tooele County residents will comment during the public comment period and let the DAQ know that the Tooele Valley shouldn’t have as many restrictions put on it as Salt Lake because it doesn’t produce as much pollution.
“I would hope there would be some sensible things that would come out of this,” Hurst said. “I still have hopes that Tooele County won’t have all the restrictions applied.”
The comment period on the proposed plan will begin Oct. 1 and closes at 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. Comments postmarked on or before that date will be accepted. Comments may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Bryce C. Bird ATTN: PM 2.5 SIP Comments Utah Division of Air Quality PO Box 144820 Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4820.
“The comment period is for people to comment on what they do and don’t agree on,” Bird said.
The DAQ has also made the proposed plan available on its website at www.airquality.utah.gov/Public-Interest/Public-Commen-Hearings/Pubrule.htm.
The public hearings for the Salt Lake nonattainment area will be held on Oct. 17 at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 195 N. 1950 W. in Salt Lake City, in Room 1015 at 2 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.
“We are very in favor of clean air and we need to maintain it and do our best to be a clean county, but to be lumped in with Salt Lake and Davis counties is ridiculous,” Hurst said.