One of the organizers of the event, Margie McCloy, collected nearly 8,000 signatures asking the Governor for creative solutions to Utah’s pollution problem.
“We’re asking Governor Herbert to think creatively about solutions that will help us get out of the bind we’re in by living in this geographically challenged area, to make our air healthier for our babies, for our children, our adults,” explained McCloy. “We need some change and we need it now.”
One by one the protestors filled into the Governor’s office to hand deliver the thousands of signatures, the only problem was Governor Herbert is in Washington and no other lawmaker was either willing or available to meet with them. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Dr. John Macfarlane, a local neurosurgeon with a severely asthmatic son, visited the Governor’s office about two weeks ago when several dozen doctors asked Herbert to call for a state of emergency.
“They wanted to have the big commercial emitters of pollutants be capped for the next month or two while we’re in this bad inversion cycle,” explained Dr. John Macfarlane of one of the doctors’ suggestions.
The Governor’s Environmental Administrator says the Governor just doesn’t have the power to do that. Alan Matheson said, “The Governor does not have the authority to shut down legally operating businesses, put people out of work or have them miss paychecks.”
The petitioners are also asking that mass transit be free on red air days, but the Executive Director of the Department of Environmental Quality says that won’t help the problem either. Amanda Smith says just because you let people ride for free, doesn’t mean they will. “We need to have a robust transit system in the state that works, that people start to rely on and use,” explained Smith.
Both sides agree that something needs to be done; it’s just not yet clear on what it will be. It certainly won’t come overnight and it may take Utah lawmakers creating regulations that go above and beyond what’s required by federal law.
Dr. Macfarlane said, “There may need to be different standards for a place like this.”