“UPHE Executive Director, Jonny Vasic, had an op ed published in the Tribune about the dangers of the dirty inland port.”

Commentary: Inland port is an air quality disaster waiting to happen











Last summer The Salt Lake Tribune ran an editorial on the proposed inland port. The editorial acknowledged what few lawmakers and port proponents have been willing to do so far:

“We will see large increases in truck and train traffic. Hundreds of diesel engines could be added to the airshed … a jump in cargo plane traffic. Rail, on-highway diesel trucks and operations at the airport are already responsible for about a fifth of the air pollution along the Wasatch Front … We will also be doubling down on air pollution when we’re already maxed out … We will hear a lot of talk about building a ‘green’ port, and that’s good. But there is no scenario where it is anything close to zero emissions. We need aggressive countermeasures on other pollution sources.”

While The Tribune’s frankness is necessary, and should be welcomed even by the port’s most ardent supporters, but I would like make a few additional points about air pollution.

First, if there are “offsets” or “counter measures” that the community can adopt to make room for many tons of new, highly toxic diesel emissions, why aren’t we adopting those offsets already? Why wait for an inland port to reduce those other sources of pollution? Isn’t our air bad enough already that we should be implementing all those “offsets” regardless? If our lawmakers are unwilling to make those improvements now, why does anyone think they will have a sudden change of heart after the arrival of all the added pollution from an inland port?

Second, because there is no safe level of air pollution, adhering to national standards via offsets should be viewed in a different context. While the standards for which we are perennially in violation are better than nothing, merely having those standards creates the false impression that achieving them will be adequate to protect our health. That is not the case.

Not only does the medical research definitively establish that all air pollution is harmful, even levels far below national standards, the research goes a step further. The relationship between pollution concentration and death and disease is not linear, it is steeper at low doses. For “pollution” from cigarette smoke that translates into this clinical axiom — smoking just one cigarette a day is half as much risk as smoking a full pack. For pollution in our airshed it means this. Just as merely one cigarette harms a smoker, even “green” air quality is still harming the community and small increases will have disproportionately larger impacts.

Third, not all particulate pollution is created equal. The chemical toxicity of diesel emissions is greater than most of the other sources of particulate pollution. Specifically, a ton of diesel particulate pollution is worse than a ton of particulate pollution from automobile tailpipes, making offsets in health consequences a more complicated if not unrealistic proposition.

Fourth, the offsets argument doesn’t take into account microenvironments. Pollution tends to concentrate near its sources, and the health consequences that we allow as a community can be vastly different comparing the east side of the Salt Lake Valley to the west, and even from one neighborhood to another. No neighborhood or township should be treated as a sacrifice zone for the economic development of another, or of the state as a whole. While pollution from an inland port would be harmful to everyone on the Wasatch Front, it would be disproportionately harmful to those that live near it, and everyone else that lives near all the freeways that would be more congested from thousands of new diesel trucks, like is now proposed for the Legacy Highway.

Utah is not in desperate need of an economic stimulus. It is in desperate need of clean air. But for those who only look through our smog and see dollar signs, clean air itself would be a much bigger economic stimulus than an inland port.

To educate the public, Utah Physicians for a Health Environment will join many other groups in presenting a half-day forum on the inland port, Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Utah State Fair Park, Zion Building.

Jonny Vasic is the executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, working on air quality issues in the Salt Lake Valley.

Full Story: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2019/01/31/commentary-inland-port-is/

UPHE victory! Tesoro Refinery must have updated permit.

UPHE scored a major victory this week in a lawsuit settlement with Utah’s Division of Air Quality over the fact that Tesoro Refinery in North Salt Lake (and the other four refineries) have been operating for 15 years without their required Title V permit under the Clean Air Act. This agreement, brokered by the Utah Attorney General, now requires Tesoro to submit the proper permit application to UDAQ and have it finalized by the end of 2015. This agreement means that Tesoro will have to comply with the most up-to-date Clean Air Act requirements and that UPHE and the public will have a more complete record of emissions and operations in order make sure they are in compliance. Read more….

What’s Killing the Babies of Vernal?


“After Donna Young spoke to the media about the infant deaths, she received threats and now goes to bed with her .45 by her side.”


“Dr. Brian Moench says fracking pollution may be to blame for the stillborns.”

Eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin has experienced an oil and gas boom in recent years, due to fracking technology. But it has come with huge external costs, including some of the worst air pollution in the nation. With it has also come a tragic spike in infant deaths, six times the national average in 2013. Rolling Stone Magazine’s senior reporter, Paul Solotaroff, writes about it as only Paul can do in the latest edition, which features UPHE predominantly. Don’t miss it.

Download the article here, RS1238_FRACKING … or read it on the Rolling Stone Magazine website.

UPHE’s efforts to raise awareness over the tragic number of infant deaths in Utah’s oil patch has gained national attention.  Donate to help support our work!

Health Care and Climate Catastrophes

Last week, leading health authorities were huddled at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, discussing how to confront one of the most urgent threats to humanity. It’s not Ebola. And it’s not HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.

The problem — a changing climate — doesn’t fit the traditional definition of health hazard and yet it threatens to undermine the health of individuals and communities in nearly every nation. [More]

MIT Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself

Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT The loudest opposition to reducing emissions of carbon and other air pollutants from large point sources (power plants, refineries, etc.) always comes from the industry themselves and politicians who have more regard for bottom lines rather than the health of their constituents. But a new study by MIT researchers shows that such reductions can result in dramatic reductions of healthcare costs, up to tens times the costs of reducing the emissions. [More]

Think You Can’t Afford Solar?

ucomm_60x60 Homeowners who install solar through U Community Solar will receive a discount price of approximately 25% off of the price for a typical installation. Past Community Solar projects in Utah have helped many homeowners power their community with clean, solar energy.  Collectively they will produce enough solar electricity to avoid over 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and the average homeowner will save about $750 each year on their utility bills. Visit the U Community Solar site to learn how to take the first step. U Community Solar has simplified the solar process, making it easier than ever before for you to go solar and be more energy empowered! They’ve done the legwork, so you don’t have to.

UCS Information Article

Salt Lake City Conducts Most Business With Stericycle

Salt Lake City sends the most items to be burned to Stericycle – more than the University of Utah healthcare network. Waste sent from the Salt Lake City police evidence room and airport trash makes up the majority of items burned at Stericyle. In addition, The Utah County jail, Salt Lake County Animal Services and the Davis County Health Department are other Utah agencies that contract for their waste incineration.

[Learn More]