Jul 26, 2023 - News

Salt Lake City to get $1 million to improve air quality

Illustration of the Salt Lake City & County Building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Salt Lake City is set to receive $1 million from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in an effort to improve air quality in Utah's capital city.

How it works: The funding, which is pending City Council approval, would allow the city to develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution and enhance public health, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said at a news conference at the nonprofit NeighborWorks on Tuesday.

  • Utah Department of Environmental Quality executive director Kim Shelley said the state will expand air quality monitoring in underserved communities in Davis and Salt Lake counties.

Why it matters: West side neighborhoods have long encountered poor air quality due to nearby freeways, refineries and other pollutants.

  • "West side neighborhoods have higher instances of pollution and associated health risks, and socioeconomic risk factors that exacerbate them," per a fact sheet provided by the EPA on Tuesday.

What they're saying: Mendenhall acknowledged that environmental injustices on the west side of Salt Lake City have "existed since redlining and have persisted for over 70 years."

Between the lines: The funding comes after the EPA launched an environmental justice assessment last year focused on six west side neighborhoods.

  • The final report is expected to be released in late August.

The other side: Some longtime west-siders expressed mistrust over whether meaningful change will happen.

  • "We're tired on the west side of having to fight for everything," said Alama Uluave, who said he's lived in Poplar Grove for about 40 years.
  • David Galvan, who co-owns Mestizo Coffeehouse, said he was concerned over Utah Department of Transportation's plans to expand I-15 and how it would impact the area's air quality.
  • "They're talking big dollars, and it could be transformative, but hopefully they do it right," he told Axios.

Of note: SLC was among more than 70 metro areas to be awarded funding through the Climate Pollution Reduction Act grant program.


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