The Park Record editorial, January 13-15, 2010
Last Sunday, the Environmental Protection Agency singled out five Northern Utah counties as having the worst air quality in the nation on that day. The level of particulate matter in the air in Provo, Ogden, Logan, and Salt Lake City even topped New York and Chicago!
The unlucky winners were Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Weber and Cache counties Thankfully, Summit County was not on the list. This time.
While some smug Parkites are quick to belittle the valley’s smog, many longtime residents aren’t so quick to join in. They have already noted telltale signs of Salt Lake’s inversion creeping up over Parley’s Summit, and they see some new pockets of homegrown pollution wafting over Kimball Junction and busy intersections in Park City.
Summit County residents are both contributors to and potential beneficiaries of the pollution in the surrounding counties and therefore have a vested interest in supporting broad-based efforts to improve everyone’s air quality. When commuters drive, one to a car, into downtown Salt Lake City, they are adding to the dank gray inversion that citizens there have to sleep and recreate in. And when Salt Lakers heave a sigh of relief that the smog has been blown eastward out of the valley, guess where it goes.
There are more insidious connections too. Summit County isn’t home to any coal-fired power plants but residents (and visitors) use plenty of electricity. That means the environment somewhere else is being compromised on locals’ behalf. Also, Summit County’s topography with its peaks and valleys is susceptible to the same kind of inversion that plagues Salt Lake. For instance, on otherwise clear winter days, there are an increasing number of days when a veil of smoky haze hangs over the Kamas Valley. While the haze may be generated in part by local woodstoves, automobile emissions are a growing part of that equation.
Summit County and Park City officials have launched several initiatives in an effort to be proactive in preserving the community’s air quality, but citizens have to make individual efforts too. That includes driving cleaner fuel-burning cars, car pooling, walking, using mass transit and reducing overall energy consumption.
Summit County may have escaped the EPA’s official reprimand this time, but the growing community should take heed and learn from the neighbors’ mistakes. Residents should also plan to pressure the state legislature when it convenes later this month to support efforts aimed at improving Utah’s air quality.
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