Tag Archives: light rail

Utah Docs say clean our air!

Utah is among the top cities for polluted air – especially in the winter time during inversions where the pollution is trapped by high pressure weather systems that don’t move – sometimes for weeks at a time.

It was interesting to see this item in today’s Deseret News about Utah’s Air:

Utah MDs campaign for clean air to ease ‘health crisis’
By Joe Bauman
Deseret Morning News
      Alarmed by death and damage to health caused by air pollution, several Utah physicians are calling for the state to take strong action.
      From mandatory dips in freeway speed limits during smoggy days to a ban on new coal-fired power plants, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment proposed what they acknowledge are bold actions Monday during a press conference at LDS Hospital.
      Among the proposals are reducing speed limits on bad-air days, a moratorium on building coal-fired power plants and an air-pollution course in elementary school curriculum.

They cited scientific studies showing that heart attacks and strokes are linked to air pollution; that methyl mercury pollution is blamed for declining wildlife; that ozone pollution may cause faster aging; and that air pollution could cause genetic changes that will be passed on from generation to generation.
      Such concerns prompted them “to be activists for our patients,” said Dr. Brian Moench, a Salt Lake anesthesiologist.
“Current air-pollution levels along the Wasatch Front constitute a health crisis,” he said. If the increasing levels of pollution aren’t checked, in 20 years a full-blown catastrophe could happen, he said.
      Because of population growth, motor vehicle traffic — the source of 65 percent of air pollution — could double in 20 years, he said. With climate changes, more droughts could be expected, also increasing ozone pollution, he added.
      Four new coal-fired power plants are on the drawing boards for the Beehive State, according to Moench; they are among 150 such facilities planned across America. The plants release mercury pollution, and there is no way to capture the vapor, he added.
      Mercury is deposited on the ground and into water. When bacteria transform it, the material becomes dangerous methyl mercury. That accumulates up the food chain, increasing many times, he said, and poses a danger. It is particularly serious for babies, the most vulnerable members of society.
      “More electricity from coal would simply be a full frontal assault on public health,” Moench said.
      In terms of health and other impacts, he added, air pollution costs Utah people at least $4 billion annually.
      The danger from air pollution extends beyond Salt Lake City and Provo, according to Dr. Richard Kanner of the University of Utah School of Medicine, whose speciality is the respiratory system. “It’s more than the Wasatch Front,” he said.
      “We know that Cache County has a problem.” And problems like Cache County’s high particulate levels might show up elsewhere in Utah if the state had monitors in many locations, he said.
      The very young and old are at most risk, along with “patients who have heart and lung disease,” Kanner said.
      Citing a Harvard study involving six cities and PM10 particulate pollution, he added, “They didn’t find a level below which it was safe.”
      The panel recommends that Utah:

      • Impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and retrofits existing plants with new air pollution control technology.

      • Reduce the speed limit along the Wasatch Front to 55 mph on bad air days.

      • Expand mass transit throughout the Wasatch Front, offering it free to the public.

      • “Reduce Utah’s air pollutants by 20 percent through numerous strategies such as assessing auto taxes based on a car’s M.P.G..”

      • Make people more aware of air pollution’s impacts, for example by adding an air-pollution course to the school curriculum.

      • Pay special attention when issuing warnings about air pollution to note the danger that pollution can pose to the unborn so pregnant women can reduce their exposure.

      • Ask that school buses not idle in school yards while waiting for students. “The engine should be shut off to decrease children’s exposure to diesel exhaust.”

      • Encourage school districts to use buses that run on alternative fuels.
      As air pollution worsens, said Dr. Scott N. Hurst of LDS Hospital, “we’ll see a further rise in people suffering from heart and lung disease.”

E-mail: bau@desnews.com

Tougher Air Pollution Laws

New Air Pollution Laws have been developed for Utah, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article today.

Current standards allow communities a certain number of days when air exceeds 65 micrograms of these fine particles per cubic meter before the EPA requires added pollution cuts. The new standard would reduce the daily trigger to 35 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.
Every Utah county meets the current standard. But, based on air-pollution data collected by the state over the past three years, 10 counties – Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Summit Tooele, Utah and Juab – would exceed the 35-microgram limit.

(The Tribune has nicely provided a context at the end of its article for PM2.5:
PM 2.5 PARTICLES are 1/40th the width of a human hair.
PM 2.5 is produced mainly from engines in cars and trucks.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS say tough new standards for the pollutant will prevent about 17,000 premature deaths each year.)

Many environmentalists, though, feel the standards need to be even more tough.
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United Parcel Service – tops in converting to alternative fueled vehicles

Today I read a post on another blog entitled UPS leads the way

UPS have announced they are adding 50 hybrid vehicles to their fleet, and 4,100 low-emission conventional vehicles this year. Currently their alternative fuel fleet is 1,500 vehicles, one of the largest in the country. Alternative fuels being used by UPS include natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, electricity and hydrogen. The 50 hybrid vehicles will be deployed in Dallas in June and are expected to reduce the fuel consumption by 44,000 gallons over the year, and should reduce CO 2 gases released by 457 metric tons. It would be amazing to think what the effect would be if they converted their whole fleet, when you consider that they delivered 3.6 billion packages and documents in 2004 (internationally).

Read more:
UPS’s plan
UPS’s Sustainability Practices
UPS: Alternative Fuels

UTA proposes route **cuts** while touting environmental responsibiltiy

I found out yesterday that the Utah Transit Authority is proposing cuts to midday routes so as to implement an express route from the South (Salt Lake)Valley for commuters. This has a lot of people, including me, upset.

Our valley is becoming more and more unfriendly to public bus riders and, by virtue of UTA’s actions, making mass transportion more unaccessible to the poor.
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Another Poll on Mass Transit

Yesterday I reported on a Deseret News poll on the expansion of commuter rail along the Wasatch Front.

Seems the D-News is continuing its poll reportings in today’s news a poll that indicates that
Utahns will back a UTA fare hike, due to the high cost of fuel. Participants indicated they would support a temporary rate hike beginning in 2006.
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Light Rail: Warming up to the concept

It’s no secret that I strongly advocate mass transportation, including light rail. I am happy to read into today’s Deseret News that most of those polled in a recent survey about light rail would gladly pay more taxes to expand the current system to include the major portion of the Wasatch Front.

Finally, people are increasingly catching on. No doubt that the rising fuel costs have some bearing on that awareness.

Transportation alternatives, including expanding commuter rail routes, can be viewed on the Utah Department of Transportation‘s website. A spokesperson quoted in the article encourages folks to look at the options and voice their opinion.

Elected officials are also encouraged to listen to their constituents on the issue. Now that’s a concept!