- Associated Press - Monday, September 7, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah residents buying a new water heater will soon be required to pay more for one that emits less nitrogen oxide due to a new rule designed to reduce wintertime pollution.

Joel Karmazyn, an environmental scientist with the Utah Division of Air Quality, said officials project the new rule will lead to a 35-percent reduction in nitrogen oxide by 2024, The Salt Lake Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/1JUhcug).

“That’s a huge reduction,” Karmazyn said.

The rule - passed on Aug. 2 by the Utah Air Quality Board - is set to take effect in about two years on Nov. 1, 2017.

Water heaters are a significant source of nitrogen oxide, which is one of the main ingredients in a chemical mix that produces a particulate called PM 2.5 that causes winter air pollution in the Salt Lake City valley, Karmazyn said.



The Wasatch Front, home to about 2 million residents in a north-south corridor stretching from Nephi in the south to Brigham City in the north, suffers in the winter through atmospheric inversions. The inversions trap cold air and pollutants in northern Utah’s bowl-shaped mountain valleys leading to nation’s worst air at times - and inflicting a blemish on the state’s image as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ross Ford, executive officer of the Utah Home Builders Association, told The Associated Press that his organization supports measures aimed at improving Utah’s murky winter air. The better the environment, the more likely it is that people move into Utah. New residents help drive new homes sales, he said.

But Ford said he is not convinced these new types of water heaters actually do what regulators think they will do

“Somebody says these are more efficient, but more efficient compared to what?” Ford said.

Matt Pacenza, executive director of the clean energy group HEAL Utah, applauded the action taken by state regulators. He called it a “modest but important step in the right direction.” He said all state residents who want cleaner air should back the rule.

“We would argue that this is exactly the sort of public policy we need to embrace,” Pacenza told the Tribune. “We embrace standards that will slowly make our homes and buildings as clean as possible.”

Under the new rule, homeowners aren’t required to remove and replace old water heaters. But, the next time the need a new water heater, they are required to buy one that meets the new standards.

Karmazyn said most water heaters in use would not meet the new standards. A new water heater he purchased for his new home produces 40 percent more nitrogen oxide than will be allowed, he said.

Exactly how much more the “ultra-low” nitrogen heaters will cost consumers is unclear.

Karmazyn said 10 of the 100 water heaters on the market tested by state regulators met the new standards. On average, they cost about $10 more, he said. But Ford estimates a much bigger increase - anywhere from $200-$800.

The rule passed after only minimal opposition, though regulators implemented various changes based on feedback from the public.

The air quality board agreed to delay implementation, for instance, at the request of Questar Gas. The utility company wanted more time to test how gas delivered to state customers will do in the new water heaters.

___

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

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