New report calls for actions to improve air quality address climate crisis

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  • The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute today released a breakthrough report designed to inform Utah’s efforts to improve air quality and address a changing climate.

New report calls for actions to improve air quality address climate crisis

January 6, 2020 (Salt Lake City, Utah) – The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute today released a breakthrough report designed to inform Utah’s efforts to improve air quality and address a changing climate. The report, called The Utah Roadmap, was requested by the Utah Legislature and includes seven priority strategies to reduce air emissions in Utah. If followed, these strategies will protect Utahns’ health, encourage economic development (particularly in Utah’s growing tech sector), advance Utah’s Olympic bid, and support Utah energy economies in transition.

“Utahns feel a sense of urgency to improve air quality,” said Natalie Gochnour, Director of the Gardner Institute. “The strategies in this report build from the Utah Legislature’s House Concurrent Resolution 7 in the 2018 General Legislative Session to recognize the dual benefit to Utah’s air shed and the climate as we reduce air emissions in Utah, all in a way that protects our health and strengthens our economy.”

The Utah Roadmap includes the findings of a six-month expert assessment involving input from representatives of Utah’s research universities; federal, state and local government; industry; health care; and the non-profit sector. Major findings include:

  • Success stories – Utah is making significant progress in curtailing emissions. Of particular note is the conversion to Tier 3 fuels; investments in renewable natural gas, wind and solar; conversion to electric-hybrid buses; and investment statewide in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Air quality/climate link – There is a link between improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing auto dependency, improving energy efficiency, and advancing innovative energy solutions, Utah can address both challenges simultaneously.

Utah’s CO2 footprint – Utah’s per-person CO2 emissions, at 19.3 metric tons, are higher than the national average of 16.0 metric tons, and are higher than Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and California. Utah’s reliance occurs because of the state’s coal-fired power plants, which are all set to convert to natural gas, hydrogen, or close within the study’s timeframe. Utah’s overall CO2 emissions are small on a national and global scale, representing 1.1% of the national footprint and 0.2% of the global footprint.

The Gardner Institute selected seven priority actions for gubernatorial, legislative, and individual action. At the top of the list is a recommendation that the state adopt – by resolution or statute – a goal to reduce criteria pollutant air emissions by 50% and CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

“These goals will inform our individual as well as collective actions,” said Tom Holst, senior energy analyst for the Gardner Institute. “Much like a map provides direction, The Utah Roadmap provides a guide to Utahns and state decisionmakers as we travel along the path to cleaner air and responsible global citizenship.”

The Utah Roadmap also encourages the following actions, many of which are already underway:

  • Lead by example – State government to convert to an all-electric/compressed natural/renewable natural gas fleet where practical, adopt energy efficiency goals in state buildings, and establish telework targets.
  • Create premier air quality/changing climate solutions laboratory – State government to establish and fund a premier state-level air quality/changing climate research solutions laboratory to improve the monitoring network, advance new technologies, and convene entrepreneurs and experts to innovate.
  • Accelerate quality growth efforts – Utah to redouble quality growth efforts, including investment in transit, critical land preservation, and the linking of economic development with transportation and housing decisions.
  • Position Utah as the market-based electric vehicle state – Utah to expand the state’s network of EV charging stations and incentivize EV/CNG/RNG use (particularly for older vehicles and large fleets).
  • Provide significant economic transition assistance to rural communities – The state to prioritize economic development assistance in energy-transition areas such as a Carbon and Emery counties.
  • Participate in national dialogue about market-based approaches to reduce carbon emissions – The state to become a leader in national discussions about how to harness the power of market forces and new technologies to reduce carbon emissions in a way that protects health, sustains economic development, and offers other benefits to Utahns.

These priority actions are accompanied in The Utah Roadmap by 55 other high-impact, low-cost options to reduce emissions.

In addition to convening technical experts in a collaborative process, the Gardner Institute conducted roundtable discussions and focus groups with public interest groups, legislators, businesses, and college students to garner feedback. Two focus groups were hosted in rural Utah (Richfield and Duchesne).

The current draft of the Utah Roadmap is publicly available through January 27, 2020 at A final version will be submitted to the Utah Legislature by the end of January 2020.

Technical Advisory Committee

Tom Adams, Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation

Scott Baird, Utah Department of Environmental Quality

Vicki Bennett/Tyler Poulson, Salt Lake City Department of Sustainability

Bryce Bird/Glade Sowards/Becky Close, Utah Division of Air Quality

Josh Brown/Jenny Esker, Rio Tinto

Andrea Brunelle, University of Utah, Geography Department

Thom Carter, UCAIR

Jon Cox/James Owen, Rocky Mountain Power

Brett Crable, Dominion Energy

Royal DeLegge/Michael Shea, Salt Lake County

Robert Gillies/Binod Pokharel, Utah State University

Andrew Gruber/Kip Billings, Wasatch Front Regional Council

Thomas Holst/Juliette Tennert, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

Benjamin Horne, lntermountain Healthcare

Ben Huot, Utah Department of Transportation

Liza Kasavana, University of Utah Health, College of Nursing

Kerry Kelly, University of Utah, Department of Chemical Engineering

Michelle Larsen/GJ LaBonty, Utah Transit Authority

Brian McInerney, National Weather Service

Shauna Mecham, Mountainland Association of Governments

Daniel Mendoza, University of Utah, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Pulmonary Division

Logan Mitchell, University of Utah, Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Brooke Tucker, Governor’s Office of Energy Development

Cheryl Pirozzi, University of Utah Health, Pulmonary Division

Brian Shiozawa, University of Utah Health

Sarah Wright/Josh Craft, Utah Clean Energy

Consultants and Staff

Brian Wilkinson/Kirsten Dodge, Wilkinson Ferrari & Co.

Siobhan Locke/Dianne Olson, The Langdon Group

Natalie Gochnour/Jennifer Robinson/Dianne Meppen/Samantha Ball/Meredith King/Paul Springer, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute


The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute serves Utah by preparing economic, demographic and public policy research that helps the state prosper. We are Utah’s demographic experts, leaders on the Utah economy, and specialists on public policy and survey research. We are an honest broker of INFORMED RESEARCH, which guides INFORMED DISCUSSIONS, and leads to INFORMED DECISIONS™. For more information, please visit or call 801-587-3717.


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2020-01-06T16:16:41-07:00January 6th, 2020|

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