Air quality in dispute: How Utahns can find collaborative solutions to the air quality problem

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SALT LAKE CITY — Collaboration is about finding common ground, and there is nothing Utah residents hold in common more than the air we breathe, said Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, at an event Thursday at the University of Utah.

On the same day that Gov. Gary Herbert announced his budget recommendations, with $100 million designated for air quality efforts, students, stakeholders and community members gathered at the S.J. Quinney College of Law to discuss how to overcome divisiveness and disparate interests to solve Utah’s air quality problem.

The event, titled “Collaborating on Air Quality: From Pollution to Solution,” was co-hosted by the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program, part of the Wallace Stegner Center at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, and the Langdon Group, a company based in Salt Lake City that facilitates collaboration.

Representatives from multiple state agencies, like the Utah Division of Air Quality and Utah Department of Transportation, as well as advocacy groups, like Breathe Utah and the Sierra Club, gathered to identify barriers to clean air solutions such as lack of political will, insufficient funding, and general misunderstanding of the sources of air pollution. One suggestion was to help more businesses in the construction, health and tech industries identify their own interests in working towards cleaner air.

Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Alan Matheson, executive director at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, left; Ashely Miller, attorney at Breathe Utah; Vicki Bennett, director of Salt Lake City Department of Sustainability; Teri Newell, deputy director at the Utah Department of Transportation; Thom Carter, executive director at Utah Clean Air Partnership; and Kerry Kelly, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah, talk about opportunities for collaboration on air quality issues during the event “Collaborating on Air Quality: From Pollution to Solution” at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.

Collaboration is different than compromise, said Danya Rumore, director of the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program at the University of Utah. Whereas compromise might be compared to mixing hot water with cold water to get lukewarm water, collaboration is mixing water with bananas, nuts and other ingredients to get something better than you had before: banana bread.

“Air quality is one of those areas where we need these innovative strategies,” said Rumore. “There is no one, right, single solution. There is only better or worse interventions.”

Teri Newell, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said that UDOT is collaborating with public transportation agencies to help people get around more efficiently.

“I work for a transportation agency that does not have specific goals for air quality,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I am not affected by this issue.”

According to Newell, UDOT studies show that the state is reaching the expansion limit for I-15.

Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Salt Lake City sustainability director Vicki Bennett, center, listens to Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Alan Mathes during the event “Collaborating …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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