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Environmental survey finds Utah Valley cities improving on environmental initiatives

By Katie England daily Herald - | Apr 28, 2016

Utah County is known for having some of the worst air pollution in the country, but a newly-released survey shows that Utah County cities are making efforts to reduce pollution and conserve energy.

Cities in Utah County are implementing more environmentally friendly policies, according to an Earth Stewardship Survey released by the Utah Valley Earth Forum last week.

The UVEF has conducted the survey each year for four years, sending out questionnaires to 24 cities and towns in Utah Valley with the goal of advancing responsible stewardship of the environment, said James Westwater, chair of the UVEF.

“The survey can also help cities compare what they are doing to what their sister communities are doing,” Westwater said.

Cities and towns representing 90 percent of Utah County’s population responded to the survey, up from 70 percent last year.

Westwater said he is happy not just with the high level of participation in the survey, but also with the progress he’s seen cities make in the four years since starting the survey.

Of the cities that took the survey, Provo had the best results, Westwater said, and as a city has worked to be increasingly environmentally friendly by taking such steps as having a sustainability advisor to the mayor, and having a city policy to consider stewardship in most city decisions.

As the county seat and the largest city in the county, Provo has the responsibility to lead the way in participating in environmentally-friendly practices, said Don Jarvis, sustainability advisor to Provo Mayor John Curtis.

“I think it’s important that Provo City be doing what it can and working with other cities,” Jarvis said. “We could have our air pristine, but if other cities in the area are not working on clean air, it doesn’t do much good.”

 Jarvis said he has been impressed with the efforts of other cities surrounding Provo, and the efforts they are taking to be green. Orem is currently looking at appointing its own sustainability committee, and provides glass recycling.

Pleasant Grove is in the process of implementing perhaps the most innovative of 2016’s conservation efforts, Westwater said.

The city of Pleasant Grove has been working since 2006 to develop and implement its “Blue Energy” program.

The system uses water pressure from culinary water sources to produce energy, which is then sold back to the power company through net-metering.

The system is expected to be fully implemented by the end of this year, and is estimated to produce enough electricity to cover the electrical consumption of the Pleasant Grove city buildings.

In the “free response” portion of the survey, cities mentioned other efforts being made to be environmentally friendly.

Eagle Mountain mentioned its in-progress comprehensive water sustainability plan, which is supported by Utah State University. Eagle Mountain is also part of a public/private partnership to preserve raptor habitat.

Santaquin mentioned its program to preserve farmland and open spaces, as well as reduce urban sprawl.

But Westwater said that there is room for improvement in all the cities, since all the responding cities indicated that they obtain less than 1 percent of energy from solar power.

“All cities derive most of their energy from unclean fossil fuels — such as coal, oil or gas — energy sources that damage our economy, harm our health and hurt our planet,” Westwater said. “We strongly urge Utah Valley communities and all citizens and businesses to take action to move Utah toward clean energy.”

To view the full survey, visit uvef.org

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