Mayor Mendenhall expands Air Quality Action Program for all City employees
PRESS RELEASE: June 30, 2022
As part of her commitment to improving air quality, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has expanded a program urging eligible employees citywide to telework and take other actions to reduce air pollution on mandatory air quality action days, as forecast by the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ).
“Driving is still the number one source of pollution during both the summer and winter months when air quality is at its worst, so this is one of the most important behavioral changes we can make,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “I encourage other employers across the Wasatch Front to join us in implementing a similar program with their workforces and commend those who already do this.”
The Mayor launched the Air Quality Action Program this past winter to a smaller group of employees. With the initial pilot proving successful, beginning July 1, all City employees will now receive automatic emails when the Division of Air Quality forecasts a “mandatory action day,” meaning the concentration of air pollutants measured in Salt Lake County are predicted to reach or exceed levels of air pollution that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The City’s Sustainability Department designed the program notifications and communications, while the Information Management Services Department created a custom script and email that automatically pulls the forecast from DAQ’s website and notifies employees. The City’s program is similar to one the State of Utah also implements.
“The idea is that we would receive one of these emails on a Tuesday and see that Thursday and Friday are forecast to be poorer air quality days,” said Debbie Lyons, the Sustainability Department Director. “If we had scheduled in-person meetings that are flexible on those days, staff can pivot and meet virtually. This saves the emissions associated with a group of people traveling to and from a meeting. It really adds up.”
Because a large percentage of Salt Lake City’s staff is field-based, teleworking is not the only option that is encouraged as part of the program. Other air quality actions include supporting the use of public transportation, carpooling, biking and walking, and modifying operations to be less polluting.
The program also highlights the importance of providing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and/or modifying work duties for staff who would normally be outside on the worst air quality days.
Salt Lake City’s Air Quality Action Program launches at the same time as the annual Clear the Air Challenge, organized by the Salt Lake Chamber. This program also urges employers and organizations to form teams and “drive down their miles” by finding alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle trips. Salt Lake City is once again participating in the Challenge as an employer, with all 18 departments competing.
In addition to employee programs, Salt Lake City is focused on reducing air pollution through policy action and community programs.
In December 2021, the Redevelopment Agency passed a new sustainability policy that makes combustion-free design, among other features, the requirement for most development projects it funds.
The City’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, which was adopted by the City Council on June 14, includes funding for new public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, more electric vehicles for the City’s internal fleet, electric riding lawnmowers and other equipment for the Public Lands Department, another community landscaping equipment exchange, free bus passes for all Salt Lake City school children, and a new bus route (Route 1) connecting Rose Park and the University of Utah, among others.
This month, the Administration is also bringing an Electric Vehicle-Ready Ordinance to the Planning Commission, which would make it standard for new multi-family units to be designed with appropriate conduit to support Level 2 charging at more parking stalls.
More of Salt Lake City’s air quality programs can be viewed at the links below.
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