SALT LAKE CITY - Organizers were hoping for the largest turnout in the state’s history at a clean air event Saturday and it appears they got their wish at the “Clean Air, No Excuses,” rally, with some estimates as high as 5,000 people attending.
The rally, on the steps of the state Capitol, was sponsored by 12 environmental groups, including at least two from Davis County.
“We were incredibly happy to see so many people standing up for these issues,” said Alicia Connell, Communities for Clean Air co-founder.
The rally was held two days before the state’s legislative session began on Monday, a session in which legislators are already jumping on the clean air band wagon with 16 bills proposed dealing with the state’s dirty air.
While a bi-partisan group of legislators unveiled their plans for legislation surrounding air quality last week, Connell believes the rally will make a difference on Capitol Hill.
“It better make a difference, with all those people standing up to say we deserve clean air,” she said. “It better say volumes to them. This is a priority.”
With the inversion building on Saturday, some protesters stood out by wearing gas masks to make their point. Others kept to the more moderate dust masks. Even some dogs were outfitted with the masks.
Organizers of the environmental groups have a list of demands for state leaders. Among them are requests to expand mass transit and provide more alternatives for vehicles, a 10-year moratorium on freeway construction and clamping down on industry, including refinery expansion.
Many of those attending the rally carried signs, such as the one aimed at Davis County air pollution imploring, “Stop Stericycle. Stop Holly Refinery.” Another, aimed at Salt Lake City, nicknamed it “Smog Lake City,” and one, worn by a dog urged other dogs to “Woof If You Love Clean Air.”
Those attending heard speaker after speaker promoting cleaner air for the Wasatch Front.
“The most fundamental right there is is the right to breath clean air,” Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment told the gathering.
He asked that those attending sign a petition that seeks transportation reform and to put an end to industrial pollution
The message was serious, but there were lighter moments as well, when musical numbers touting clean air were performed. One, performed to the folk song “This Land Is My Land,” said, “This Air Is My Air.”
Following the rally, Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Amanda Smith lauded rally participants in a press statement.
“I applaud everyone whose concerns about our air quality have motivated them to become engaged towards meaningful solutions,” she said, adding the state has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency and scientists to identify solutions to the state’s air quality problem.