Clean air advocates added a personal touch to air pollution on Thursday.
Nearly 50 Utahns—many lobbying for their first time—gathered at the State Capitol to talk to legislators about this session’s clean-air bills and present them a book of stories on the effects of poor air quality.
Breathing Stories: Utah Voices For Clean Air, published by Torrey House Press, contains more than two dozen essays from residents around the state. Brooke Larsen, the book’s editor, said the group wanted to tell stories from around the state, showing legislators that it’s not only Wasatch Front residents who value clean air.
After seeing the impact the group’s book Red Rock Testimony had on some legislators regarding public lands, they wanted to do the same with air pollution, Larsen said.
“Our inspiration really came out of our belief that stories have the unique power to resonate with people more so than facts or statistics,” Larsen told City Weekly. “So, we did this project to show the state Legislature that this is an issue that tons of people care about, that it impacts their lives personally and it comes out not only from a need for [our] own health but also a deep love for this state.
“A lot of the stories talk about how part of the reason air quality is such an important issue to them is they love the state and want it to be clean.”
In last year’s State of the Air report, the American Lung Association ranked Salt Lake City’s air quality as the sixth-worst in the country. It gave Utah an F for ozone and a D for particulate pollution.
Ashley Tucker, who was lobbying for the first time Thursday, said air quality significantly affects her health. At 26, she’s already come down with pneumonia three times and been hospitalized for it once.
“I struggle with air quality,” Tucker said. “I’m an outdoor enthusiast and I don’t know if this is something where I can live here long term—especially if I have kids.”
Here are the current air-quality-related bills in the Legislature:
- House Bill 38–Fireworks Restrictions: Bill would cut in half the number of days Utahns can ignite fireworks.
- House Bill 101–Air Quality Emissions Testing Amendments: Requires diesel emissions testing in all counties that already have implemented gasoline vehicle emissions testing.
- House Bill 171–Motor Vehicle Emissions Amendments: Increases fine schedule for individuals who illegally tamper with vehicles’ emissions technology.
Torrey House Press was not alone, either. Members from HEAL Utah, which donated money to print the book, also helped pass out copies.
Laura Schmidt, outreach director for HEAL, said they want the book to stick in legislators’ minds instead of simply telling them to support a bill and why.
“I think most of the time, HEAL emphasizes a lot of fact sheets, and a lot facts and things like that—so we’re very big on the policy side,” Schmidt said. “This is the personal side. These are stories written by Utahns that experienced air quality in Utah. It brings it home; brings it personal.”