More than 150 grassroots activists, many in masks, gathered Wednesday at the state Capitol to protest Gov. Gary Herbert's inaction on Utah's polluted air.
The U.S. air quality monitoring agency this week found that the five cities with the worst air in the nation are all in Utah: Logan, Brigham City, Ogden, Provo and Salt Lake City.(Take a moment for some hometown pride: Woo-hoo! We swept the top five! It's a bad-air pentafecta!)
The air has been so bad for so long that "Utah nice" seems to have corroded and some of the activists' statements were nearly as ugly as the view of the valley from the Capitol steps.
Cherise Udell of Utah Moms for Clean Air blasted Herbert's statements putting most of the blame on citizens, when large industries produce about half the pollutants. Herbert maintains that reducing air pollution would hurt Utah's economy, she says. "What he means is that it's bad for the economy of his donors."(Ouch. See what I mean about endangered Utah nice?)
Udell argues that forcing industrial polluters, such as Rio Tinto, to take measures to reduce pollution will, in fact, help Utah's economy.
"If Rio Tinto has to clean the air it will produce jobs," she said. "They just don't want to pay for it." (Tourist note: Rio Tinto owns that big smoke stack and immense crater you see west of SLC International.)
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake and suspected socialist fifth columnist, told the crowd that only overwhelming public pressure on the governor and the Legislature, which "worships at the altar of free enterprise," will force action on air pollution.