SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 3, 2018 — Community, conservation and public-health groups today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce air quality standards in northern Utah and parts of Arizona that limit particulate pollution from fossil fuels, industrial livestock operations and other sources.
Today’s notice was sent by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Westside Coalition and SLC Air Protectors. It was triggered by the Trump EPA’s failure to require Provo and Salt Lake City in Utah — as well as parts of Pinal County in Arizona — to take mandatory steps to clean up their air, as required by the Clean Air Act.
The EPA has previously determined that the Salt Lake area has particulate matter pollution from soot, smoke and other sources that is high enough to trigger heart attacks, strokes, asthma, bronchitis and even death. The affected areas include Salt Lake and Davis counties along with portions of Weber, Box Elder and Tooele.
“Nothing is more important than the air we breathe, and the Trump administration has utterly failed to protect Utahns from one of the most dangerous forms of pollution,” said Deeda Seed, a Center for Biological Diversity campaigner in Salt Lake City.
Particulate matter refers to tiny airborne particles such as soot and smoke. Soot is generated when cars, power plants and other industrial facilities burn fossil fuels.
Factory farms also create particulate pollution. Industrial livestock operators often dispose of the large quantities of manure by spraying it into the air, where it can spread antibiotics and dangerous antibiotic-resistant genes.
There is no known safe level of fine particulate matter, because even minute amounts lead to death and disease. An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce fine particle pollution prevented more than 160,000 deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and 1.7 million asthma attacks in 2010 alone.
“Even research paid for in part by the polluters themselves has confirmed that fine particulate matter can lead to premature mortality as well as a variety of other adverse health outcomes,” said Caroline Cox, a senior scientist with the Center for Environmental Health. “With the science being so clear, it is just mind-boggling that the Trump administration has no commitment to adequately protecting us from dangerous air pollution like particulate matter.”
Research shows that west side communities in Salt Lake City are particularly hard hit by air quality problems due to their proximity to refineries, highways and the airport.
“Based on our location, residents of our west-side communities are more likely to and are being measurably harmed by the current poor air quality,” said Richard Holman, co-chair of the Westside Coalition, which is made up of six Salt Lake City west side communities advocating for the safety, health and quality of life of residents. “Our air quality problems need to get fixed and we want the EPA to step up and do its job.”
Along with causing serious health problems, particulate pollution causes regional haze, harms plants and acidifies water bodies.
“The medical research has greatly expanded our understanding of just how harmful our air pollution is, and Utah’s population growth alone will make air pollution an even greater problem for our future,” said Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “These two realities must compel the EPA to follow through on protecting our health. The EPA must hold Utah state government accountable to produce a real plan with a real deadline to ensure healthy air for all Utahns.”
Solving northern Utah’s air quality problem is increasingly urgent as state leaders push for new development, including the proposed inland port — a massive freight transfer station slated to be built next to the airport and Great Salt Lake wildlife habitat.
“It’s irresponsible and unethical for the EPA to fail to hold the state of Utah to vital air quality standards and deadlines while we remain in nonattainment over the last decade. An average of 2,000 people in Utah die annually due to our poisonous air,” said Robyn Adamson, a founding board member of SLC Air Protectors. “The EPA must take notice of the estimated 20,000 Utahns who lost their lives due to our poor air quality over the last decade. This becomes urgent as the probability of additional pollution from the proposed inland port becomes more eminent.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science-based health education and interventions that result in progressive, measurable improvements to the environment.
The Westside Coalition is a regional, non-profit advocacy organization comprised of the residents and Community Councils of the six Westside communities of Salt Lake City. The Coalition is dedicated to advocating for the health, safety and quality of life of the Westside community residents.
SLC Air Protectors is a Native-led, non-profit organization inspired by Standing Rock, whose mission is to improve air quality, protect the natural environment, and support Native American stewardship in Utah through inclusive grassroots organizing and community action.