By Lynnette Harris

Governor Appoints Researchers to Teams Charting State’s Future 

Two Utah State University faculty members and Utah Agricultural Experiment Station researchers have been appointed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert to serve on two newly created teams tasked with making recommendations that will impact key components of the state’s environment and future. 

Robert Gillies, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, the state climatologist and director of the Utah Climate Center will bring his climate expertise to the governor’s Clean Air Action Team and the Water Strategy Advisory Team. Also appointed to the water advisory team is Joanna Endter-Wada, associate professor in the Quinney College of Natural Resources and director of the Urban Water Conservation Research Lab.

The Clean Air Action Team (CAAT), includes 38 experts in diverse areas, including industry, healthcare, government and education, who will meet 10 times over the next year to come up with ways to address Utah’s growing air pollution problem. With expertise in climatology of the Intermountain West, Gillies is part of the panel’s academic team examining ways poor air affects quality of life for many Utahns.

He said the earth naturally gives off gasses but in the winter, those gasses get trapped in valleys that are surrounded by mountains that allow little mixing in the atmosphere.

“So if the valley had no human being in it, you’d still get inversions,” he said. However, people’s activities worsen the problem when they drive their cars and trucks or heat their houses, for example. The result is an increase of tiny particles of solids or liquids that become suspended in the atmosphere, especially particles of pollution known as particulate matter 2.5 (particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller) that remain in the air. These particles can get into people’s bloodstreams and damage their health, potentially even taking five years off their lives, Gillies said. Cache Valley is especially prone to inversions that trap particulates at concentrations far worse than Environmental Protection Agency regulations allow under the Clean Air Act.

As a first step toward resolution, CAAT will bring different groups together and educate each as to what they can do. Businesses and industry may come forward with a commitment to cut their emissions by a certain amount, Gillies said. Maybe then people will follow in doing their part and cut their own emissions by carpooling, riding bikes and turning off idling cars, he added.

The State Water Strategy Advisory Team is a 38-person team comprised of legal experts, water managers, conservation leaders, legislators, researchers and business representatives.

“We face far-reaching challenges in Utah’s water future,” Governor Herbert said. “From a growing population to drought concerns and funding problems, many complicated and weighty considerations demand we plan and prepare now.”

The team will evaluate potential water management strategies, frame those options and their implications for the public and solicit feedback and ultimately develop plans for a 50-year water strategy for the state.

Governor Details Next Steps in State’s 50-year Water Strategy: Creates Water Strategy Advisory Team

Governor Introduces Clean Air Action Team

Writer: Lynnette Harris, 435-797-2189,