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Utah Celebrates 15 Years of Idle Free Awareness and Action for 2022-2023 Winter Season

September marks the 15th Annual Governor Declaration for Idle Free in Utah September 2022 and the 2022-2023 Winter Season. The Governor’s Declaration is currently supported by over 60 Utah Mayors who represent more than ¾ of the state’s population. The highly anticipated event was held on Thursday, September 1st at 11 AM at the Utah State Capitol. Key leaders and advocates for the Idle Free shared their stories, work and support of this unique Utah campaign for clean air and zero emissions. 

This is the 15th anniversary of Utah’s beloved Idle Free Campaign, “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free” and the annual opportunity to announce Utah’s official Idle Free Month and Winter Season 2022-2023.  Today we reflect on the past 15 years with a sense of accomplishment. This initiative has inspired statewide idle free policies, as well as action by school districts, cities, towns, counties, and Zion National Park. We recognize the consistent hard work of the Bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, Utah Idle Free fleets and most importantly, the collective of individual action- a ten-second commitment to turn the key.” Tammie Bostick, Executive Director, Utah Clean Cities

In 2021, Utah Clean Cities and Intermountain Healthcare partnered to bring awareness to the impacts idling has on individual and community health through an updated signage campaign.  These updated visual images of the Idle Free signs can be seen throughout Intermountain Healthcare Campuses. Ten signs were installed at Utah Valley Hospital in September 2021. These signs remind visitors of the importance of turning off our vehicles to support the safety and well-being of employees, patients, and visitors. 

This year, we continue to applaud the efforts of those utilizing and supporting Idle Free Education Programs including Utah Clean Cities, UCAIR, Breathe Utah, Utah Society for Environmental Education and the State Health Department’s Asthma Program and Recess Guide. These grass-roots programs reach over 15,000 students, and continue to grow across 425 schools. 

The Turn your Key, Be Idle Free program recognizes the Utah cities that are officially Idle Free cities. To date, the cities of Alta, Cottonwood Heights, Draper City, Holladay, Logan, Millcreek, Murray City, Park City, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Sandy, South Jordan and Springdale all have Idle Free City Ordinances. Zion National Park is also Idle Free.

Cameron Diehl, Utah Clean Air Partnership; Debbie Lyons, SLCgreen, SLC Sustainability; Representative Joel Briscoe, Bi-partisan Clean Air Caucus; Tammie Bostick, Utah Clean Cities; Pilar Pobil, Utah Artist[/caption]

The summer of 2022 brought high temperatures across the Wasatch Front, including a record-breaking number of days above 100 degrees. Along with soaring temperatures comes an increased exposure to ground-level ozone, a pollutant formed from the reactions between Nitric Oxide (NOx), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), heat, and sunshine. Although we cannot see or smell this harmful pollutant, ozone is unhealthy and it has been likened to getting a sunburn on our lungs. 

Ozone and PM2.5 from vehicle emissions, along with the wildfire smoke that Utahns frequently experience, negatively impacts the health of Utah communities and disproportionately affects historically disadvantaged populations. The transportation sector – both individuals and fleets – can work to lessen the harmful effects of poor air quality with simple actions, such as “turn your key, be idle free”. Local government entities, businesses, fleets and many Utah communities are raising the bar for partnership with this annual reminder to curb unnecessary idling. 

“We are excited to recognize the commitment from Utah communities with the fifteenth year of “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free”.  We all play a part in Utah’s air quality, and even simple changes have a big impact on our air. Being idle-free, carpooling, or riding transit help every Utahn breathe easier. City leaders are striving to reduce our emissions in our buildings and vehicles. We challenge everyone to continue improving our air quality!” – Cameron Diehl, Executive Director, Utah League of Cities and Towns, Board Member, UCAIR. 

The Bipartisan Utah Clean Air Caucus was started after a series of detestable inversions and consists of Republican and Democratic representatives and senators hailing from the Salt Lake valley to the rural corners of the state. The caucus seeks to address in earnest our state’s serious non-attainment issues and consider policies to mitigate Utah’s poor air quality. The current co-chair and original founding member, Rep. Joel Briscoe spoke today and shared the following,

“The Bipartisan Utah Clean Air Caucus was started ten years ago in 2013 in the winter of a serious PM2.5 inversion. The Clean Air Caucus meets several times every year to get up to speed on air quality issues and to work on policy and appropriations to tackle our state’s serious non-attainment issues and to mitigate Utah’s air quality which ranks as some of the worst in the nation during inversion season.” – Rep. Joel Briscoe, co-chair, Bi-Partisan Legislative Clean Air Caucus

Air quality is a complex issue. In Utah, air pollution issues are particularly fraught with unique challenges, including distinctive local topography, heavy transportation traffic, and a high density population. There is no simple solution to solving our air pollution challenges, but focusing on transportation makes common sense. Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah, and unnecessary idling contributes a significant amount of emissions into our air shed each day. 

The Bi-partisan Clean Air Caucus was not the only active voice in the notable “bad inversion year” here in Utah the winter of 2013. Renowned Utah artist Pilar Pobil painted Under the Great Seal of the State of Utah in an artist effort to urge elected officials to take affirmative action. The painting shows legislators flying around the state capitol building, depicted as a beehive, far above the winter inversion and the people below are caught in smog. The citizens struggle in the smog while the flying legislators seem oblivious.

Pilar Pobil, Tammie Bostick in from of Pilar’s ‘Under the Great Seal of the State of Utah”

“Growing up on an idyllic Mediterranean island, I was immersed in the wonder of nature. I developed a strong sense of respect for our natural world and the need to protect it. In 2013, I was inspired to paint Under the Great Seal of the State of Utah after a particularly bad air inversion during the legislative session. I felt our elected officials could and should do more to clean our air and protect nature.” – Pilar Pobil, Utah Artist, “Under the Great Seal of the State of Utah”

Over 80 Utah fleets make a commitment each year with Utah Clean Cities, and the communities they serve, to operate Idle Free. Based on Utah Clean Cities 2021 annual report data, the Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free program reduced more than 200,000 lbs. of criteria pollutants in 2021. In total, the program reduced more than 13,942 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the last year. That is equivalent to 1,183,139 gallons of gasoline. 

“Salt Lake City was one of the first cities in Utah to adopt an idle free ordinance. Something as simple as turning off your car when you’re waiting for the kids, or sitting at a drive-thru, is one easy way for everyone to do their part. This simple action of ‘turning your key to be idle free’ will go a long way to clean our air.” – Debbie Lyons, Director, Salt LakeCity Department of Sustainability

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