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Posts tagged ‘Idle Free Ordinance’

Idle Free Ordinance Update: Keep Our Air Clean!

Salt Lake City is moving into a hot and already-record-breaking summer.

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.

Check out the 2021 formal ordinance adoption language here.

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!

You can read the full ordinance on the SLCgreen website.

Image of Idle Free sign. The teal bordered sign says "Idle Free City City Ordinance 12.58.030" at the top with a Salt Lake City logo at left. In the middle of the sign is a graphic of an idling car that is enclosed by a red circle with a slash through the middle. Black text at the bottom reads "Turn your key. be idle free!" Under that, in a teal banner and lime green text reads "2 Minute Time Limit" and finally, in black text on white at the bottom "It's Our Health, and the Law."
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Coping with Bad Air During a Pandemic

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.

Graph from Utah Division of Air Quality depicts pronounced spike in pollution on August 20 due to California forest fires.
The Utah Division of Air Quality’s monitors showed a pronounced spike in pollution on August 21 as the winds brought wildfire smoke from California’s devastating fires.

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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.

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Air Quality & COVID-19

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.

The collective social distancing practices resulted in reducing our community’s overall emissions – and cleaning up Utah’s notoriously bad air. But the lockdowns were an impermanent (and unfortunate) solution: as more cities reopen, emissions – and COVID-19 cases – are again on the rise.

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.

Photo of inversion in Salt Lake valley.
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We've Got the December Bad Air Blues

The view from the SLCgreen office on Dec. 4, 2019.

With a week of air that has been some of the worst in the country, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling frustrated. Salt Lake City’s current air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and requires mandatory action of limited driving and no wood burning. For most of us, Salt Lake City’s notoriously bad air is a nuisance and health concern, limiting our activities and turning our skyline grey. Moreover, pollutants like PM 2.5 are dangerous, especially for older residents, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Air quality is a public health concern, as well as an economic one.

It may come as a surprise that although transportation currently contributes nearly half of the emissions causing Salt Lake City’s bad air, buildings are catching up. Indeed, houses and buildings currently contribute roughly 38% of emissions, and industry point sources produce the other 13%. As emissions standards on cars are becoming more strict, managing emissions from houses and buildings is a growing priority.

PM 2.5 is the primary winter concern in Salt Lake City’s airshed. The particulate matter poses serious health risks and gets trapped in the Salt Lake valley during inversion. Most of the PM 2.5 is a direct result of precursor emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and chemicals that mix to form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.

When you look outside, it may feel like there’s no good news. However, per capita pollution in Utah is decreasing. Salt Lake City is taking steps to help clean the air and protect our public health and environment. Find out how you can keep our airshed (and lungs!) clean and healthy.

What is SLC doing?

Reducing combustion and emissions are a key step towards cleaning the air.

Salt Lake City has many air quality initiatives in place that are helping clean the air. Among these include the continued expansion of EV infrastructure, expanding cleaner vehicles in our fleet, and implementing our energy benchmarking ordinance for nearly 1,000 commercial buildings. Additionally, the HIVE pass provides residents with access to UTA’s public transit system at a reduced cost.

Salt Lake City built the nation’s first Net Zero energy Public Safety Building.
In 2018, Salt Lake City converted five parking enforcement vehicles to all-electric Chevy Bolts. As of Oct. 2019, the Salt Lake City fleet has over 135 hybrids, 32 all-electric vehicles, 72 compressed natural gas heavy duty vehicles, and 117 clean diesel heavy duty vehicles.

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