- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2015
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Thousands of Utah residents rallied at the State Capitol Saturday to protest poor air quality along the Wasatch Front, and the new Republican speaker of the House told them he expects this year’s Legislature to move to address their concerns.

Many of the protesters rode bikes up the hill to the statehouse in Salt Lake City. Others wore surgical and gas masks while waving signs at the rally police estimated attracted a crowd between 2,500 and 3,500.

Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said it was important that some Republican leaders participated in the event, dubbed “Clean Air Now, No Excuses Rally 2015.” A similar rally last year drew an estimated crowd of about 5,000.

“We hope it is indicative of real interest in furthering the legislation moving before them during this session,” Moench told the Salt Lake Tribune (https://tinyurl.com/kva6bau).

Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he appreciated the efforts they were making to contact lawmakers.

“We are working hard and we will find common ground. You will see something coming out the Capitol during this (Legislative) session. We will leave the place better than we found it and leave Utah better than we found it,” Hughes said.

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Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, told the crowd there are currently 17 bills and six funding requests “to help clean air in the 2015 Legislative session” and that they will cost taxpayers money.

“They will only pass with your help,” she said.

Activists, spiritual leaders and others implored those gathered to remain diligent in demanding “the right to breathe clean air.”

Utah composer Kurt Bestor said knew he had to get involved in the clean air battle after a recent discussion with his 6-year-old daughter Ella while taking her to school and he pointed out the fog.

“It’s not fog, it’s pollution,” Bestor remembers her saying. Interested in her response, Bestor asked what caused pollution, what happens when it fills the Salt Lake Valley and what can be done about it.

“A myriad of things, Daddy. It means we can’t go out for recess. We need to plant more trees,” she answered.

“At that moment I knew I had found my cause,” Bestor said. “What I love about my daughter us she just didn’t point the finger and say somebody else has to take care of it.”

HEAL Utah executive director Matt Pacenza demonstrated the increasing awareness of air pollution in the state by sharing information gained from his 10-year-old son while checking out trends on Google.

“Utahns’ search air quality terms more than anywhere else in America,” Pacenza said. “If you go back to the mid-2000s hardly anyone in Utah searched those terms. Air quality has become the pre-emptive environmental issue of our time.”

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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