We had an amazing December with lots of storms and snow that filled our mountains and gave kids around the neighborhood plenty of opportunities to build snowmen.
But this week the dreaded high pressure took hold and we’re looking at several days, if not a couple of weeks, of inversions. This means that whatever we emit into the air stays there. And pollution doubles every day. Yuck!
This is the time for us all to prioritize ways to reduce our contribution to the haze.
It’s also a fitting time for Salt Lake City to launch a new air quality program.
As you’ll recall, Salt Lake City works hard to create programs, projects, and policies to improve air quality:
Exciting news! Yesterday the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) passed a new sustainability policy that is one of the most significant in the country when it comes to reducing air pollution and climate emissions! As of December 14th, new buildings funded by the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) will be more energy efficient, all-electric, and climate friendly in accordance with its Sustainable Development Policy adopted by the RDA Board of Directors.
The RDA works to update Salt Lake City’s infrastructure in order to foster vibrant communities and neighborhoods as well as stimulate economic growth.
With the new Sustainability Policy, RDA-funded buildings will need to meet three new requirements:
1. Projects must achieve a federal ENERGY STAR score of 90 or higher. ENERGY STAR scores range from 1-100. A score of 90 indicates that the building scores higher than 90% of its peers based on criteria related to Property Type, Property Use Details, and Energy Data. These metrics are evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on the building type.
2. Buildings must operate without on-site fossil fuel combustion. This means that no propane or natural gas can be utilized in building operations. Fossil fuels such as these produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful products that worsen air quality and trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Rather than fossil fuels, buildings will operate using electricity for heat, and sourcing that from more sustainable alternatives such as solar electricity.
3. Projects need to participate in Salt Lake City’s energy benchmarking program, Elevate Buildings. SLCgreen’s Elevate Buildings program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by requiring commercial buildings above 25,000 sq ft to benchmark and report energy usage.
The policy also outlines additional net zero guidelines for projects utilizing specific RDA financing programs.
Read the press release that went out today to learn more!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2021
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Redevelopment Agency Moves Needle on Mayor Mendenhall’s Air Quality Goals with New Sustainable Development Policy
Update will spur RDA-funded projects to incorporate sustainable building practicesand technologies that reduce building-related climate emissions and local air pollution
November marks the beginning of inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley. This is the time of year when pollutants including PM 2.5 get trapped in the valley, obscuring the mountains and posing dangerous health risks to our communities.
Protecting our airshed and reducing pollution wouldn’t be possible without the collective actions of everyone coming in and out of Salt Lake City. While transportation contributes a significant portion of the local air pollution, other factors including building efficiency and home energy use can also contribute to pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color, partially as a result of source location and historical redlining of neighborhoods. Air quality continues to be a major equity concern for Salt Lake City, where proximity to major highways, industrial areas, and fewer trees make some parts of Salt Lake City more polluted than others. By addressing air pollution’s many sources, Salt Lake City can help improve air quality.
Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to help everyone breathe a little easier!
A warming climate makes air pollution worse – from increased wildfires to the formation of ground-level ozone.
As temperatures go up, so does ground-level ozone. This is the ozone that forms when emissions from our cars, lawnmowers, other sources of combustion, and certain chemical products react with sunlight and heat.
Ozone is damaging to our lungs and cardiovascular systems. It’s an invisible, odorless chemical, but being exposed to it is described like “receiving a sunburn on your lungs.”
That’s why it’s important for everyone to work together to reduce pollution. Check out the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s list of best practices for reducing ozone during these hot, sunny days.
One of the biggest ways to reduce air and ozone pollution is to drive less. Vehicle exhaust contributes a sizeable chunk of our ozone pollution.
And if you do have to drive? Remember to turn your engine off and be idle free when stopped in your vehicle (when not in traffic).
Excess vehicle exhaust threatens our air quality and the overall health of our communities. That’s why in 2011, Salt Lake City enacted one of the first Idle Free Ordinances in the state.
The Idle Free Ordinance prohibits unnecessary idling over two minutes within Salt Lake City limits. The ordinance prioritizes our community’s commitment to improving local air quality.
Idle Free Ordinance Update
Thanks to a 2019 state legislative change, Salt Lake City was able to update our 2011 Ordinance this year to better serve its purpose of limit idling in Salt Lake City. Specifically, the law (HB148) allows Salt Lake City to issue only one warning before issuing a ticket for idling. Previously, the city was required to issue three warnings.
The idling time limit will stay the same: unnecessary idling for more than two minutes is prohibited.
Some idling, of course, is necessary. For example, when stopped for an official traffic control device or signal, or if you the health and safety of a driver or passenger (including service animals) requires it. However, in ordinary driving situations, lengthy stops are generally limited, and when you do make a stop, remember to turn the key and be idle free!
February is (finally!) here! And that means that the Clear the Air Challenge has begun!
In the last few years, Utahns have worked together to improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Early last year, the EPA announced Salt Lake City and Provo were in compliance with federal standards for PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes our air quality along the Wasatch Front. This significant milestone came after years of community wide work to take action to clear the air.
In 2020, we learned that the steps we took to slow coronavirus cases resulted in quick changes to our air quality. COVID-19 continues to threaten our community’s health and economic security, resulting in increased social inequities. Many of the changes we’ve made in this crisis are not sustainable in the long term. However, our work to improve Salt Lake City’s resiliency includes taking actions that support public health and security, and that address environmental issues like air quality.
This month, we challenge Salt Lake City community members to participate in the 12th annual Clear the Air Challenge! The Clear the Air Challenge is a chance to level up your efforts to improve air quality. The Challenge runs the entire month of February, chosen due to the seasonal inversion that makes wintertime air quality especially bad. However, the steps you take this month can make a difference for our air all year long.
For many of us who are still spending more time at home, the challenge will feel a little different this year. We’ve put together some helpful facts, tips, and inspiration to get you going on the 2021 Clear the Air Challenge!
Salt Lake City Passes Joint Resolution Establishing Electrified Transportation Goals
Salt Lake City’s new Electrified Transportation Resolution, a joint resolution between Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council, establishes a joint commitment to incorporate and promote clean energy transportation technology as an important solution in reducing carbon emissions and pollutants that impact air quality.
The resolution includes goals of electrifying modes of transportation that have historically relied on gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Through the resolution, the City commits to expanding electric vehicles for its internal fleet and to working with external partners to electrify public transit and smart mobility platforms such as rideshare and car share. Through expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, the City aims to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicle technology by the public and non-government fleets.
“As our city continues its push toward better air quality and environmental resilience, distilling our goals for electric transportation and committing to shifting our fleet is the right move,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
“This is another solid step toward the City’s ongoing commitment to use cleaner energy and reduce pollution,” said City Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Both government and private industry must continue to take every action possible to enable clean fuel usage.”
Earlier this spring we experienced a period of clean air due to lock-downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Salt Lake City’s summer air quality has been recently impacted by smoke from nearby and regional wildfires, as well as from higher ozone pollution that is typical in the summer.
Bad air quality threatens everyone’s health, particularly those with sensitive respiratory systems. The effects of bad air even have the potential to make COVID-19 even worse.Your lungs are already irritated and inflamed due to pollution, and this makes them more susceptible to infections like COVID.
Ironically, the pandemic – coupled with rising temperatures caused by climate change – are also behind the record number of human-caused fires in Utah. The feedback loop linking pandemic, fires, and bad air is disturbing, but there are ways we can take actions to help protect the air.
In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.
Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.
We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.
We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.
Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices.
As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.
We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.
Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”
Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.
We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.
It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.
These are global issues, but the impact is local.
Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color. This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.
Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.
We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.
The Clear the Air Challenge is a little more than halfway over. This month, we’ve been inspired to see more of our friends and colleagues carpooling, walking, biking, and taking public transit to get around Salt Lake City.
Transportation emissions cause nearly 50% of the pollutantsthatbecome trapped in our airshed during inversions, so finding ways to get out of the car makes a difference!
That also why Salt Lake City continues to invest in programs that make using transit easier and more affordable for residents.
In 2018, the City passed a sales tax and bond initiative called Funding our Future, with the goal of increasing funding to support public safety, street repair, better transit service, and greater housing opportunities.
A robust transit system is the backbone of a thriving community. It also supports the city’s goal of curbing carbon emissions and clearing the air, so we are grateful that Salt Lake City voters supported it!
After significant public outreach, the first phase of the transit expansion began in August 2019.
Three east-west UTA bus routes were enhanced to provide more transit, for more people, with more convenience and reliability.
What does “Frequent Transit Network” mean?
Very simply, it means buses that run every 15 minutes during peak times, with early-morning, later-night, and Sunday service. That means you can rely on these lines to get you where you need to go, on your schedule.
Critically, these lines also offer key east-west connectivity, which is an enhancement to the Salt Lake City transportation network. These routes are the 2, 9, and 21 routes.
Routes 2 (200 S), 9 (900 S), and 21 (2100 S) now provide: