Utah receives $6 million boost from EPA to reduce air pollution

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SALT LAKE CITY — An infusion of $6 million in new federal funding will help Utah’s efforts to reduce pollution, including the replacement of emissions-belching school buses and installation of anti-idling technology.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded grants to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality that will pay for retrofitting vehicles, replacing aging school buses and helping residents cut costs in repairing or replacing older vehicles that flunk emissions testing in Cache County.

The state agency received a $1 million National Clean Diesel Grant to retrofit five Salt Lake City fleet vehicles and five short-haul trucks owned by Calco Transportation.

Money will also be used to install anti-idling technology in two dozen school buses in the Tooele School District and replace 21 older buses in five school districts.

Another $5 million of the $20 million available through the EPA’s Targeted Airshed Grants Program will come to Utah and is aimed specifically at helping Provo and Logan meet air quality standards for wintertime pollution.

Over five years, the state plans to replace up to 40 school buses in Utah and Cache counties, and provide financial assistance to families whose vehicles flunk emissions testing in Cache County.

“Since older vehicles typically fail the test, replacing them with a newer, cleaner vehicle would have a significant impact on improving vehicle emissions,” said Mark Berger, manager of the Division of Air Quality’s policy section.

Cache County adopted a vehicle emissions testing program that went into effect nearly three years ago. The move was part of the ongoing state effort to come into compliance with federal air quality standards for on PM2.5, or fine particulate pollution.

The clean diesel effort was launched in 2008 with the agency’s participation in the federal program. Since then more than $10 million in state and federal grants have helped 53 small businesses, 34 school districts, two government entities and one university purchase more fuel-efficient equipment.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, has been pushing his colleagues at the Utah Legislature to pay for getting the dirtiest school buses off the streets.

His legislation, which would have directed $20 million for the statewide effort, has stalled the past couple of sessions, but the Davis County lawmaker is not giving up.

Handy said he hopes to use a portion of the settlement money Utah received in the notorious emissions scandal involving Volkswagen.

Of the 2,800 school buses across the state, Handy said about 450 are 2006 models or older — without the latest technology — and a good portion of those are a couple of decades old.

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