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Murray goes idle free

Dec 01, 2016 03:56PM ● Published by Tyler Warren

Currently, every school in Murray is an idle-free zone. (Tyler Warren, tyler.w@mycityjournals.com)

Gallery: Murray goes idle free [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tyler Warren | tyler.w@mycityjournals.com


As more data comes out about the health effects of air pollution, residents across the Salt Lake valley have expressed frustration with the lack of serious legislation regarding air pollution.

For years, Councilwoman Diane Turner saw the air quality in the valley get worse. Many residents took notice as well. 

“I’ve received several emails and calls from my constituents over the last three years regarding their concerns about the quality of our air,” Turner said. “In talking with other city leaders in Utah and throughout the United States I realized there is something we can do to help our city and its residents.”

Two years ago, Turner began looking seriously at what it would take to bring an idle-free ordinance into the city code. She worked closely with Tammie Cooper, northern coordinator for the Utah Clean Cities Coalition.

“What we know is 50 percent of pollution in the valley is from transportation,” Cooper said. Around transportation corridors that number can be much higher. She said this puts Murray in a dangerous situation, because although it may have a small population relative to other cities in the area, “air moves.”  

Cooper said up to a quarter of all air pollution around transportation corridors can be attributed to idling. This is why having legislation in place is important. 

City Attorney Frank Nakamura drafted an ordinance, and on Oct. 18, the Murray City Council approved it. By passing this legislation, the city joins the ranks of Salt Lake City, Holladay, Logan and others who have made a commitment to addressing air quality. 

The ordinance forbids idling for periods exceeding 10 minutes, except in extreme heat or cold. Violators will receive a warning first, followed by a small fine if violations persist. The move is key to putting the weight of the law behind current idle-free zones in the city.

To date, most of the work done to make Murray an idle-free city has focused on schools. Utah Clean Cities has previously worked with the city and school district to make all 10 schools in Murray idle-free campuses.  

Utah Clean Cities partnered with the University of Utah Atmospheric Sciences Department and the Salt Lake County Environmental Health Department to do studies on pollution hotspots around the Salt Lake Valley. What they found was shocking. 

“During drop off and pickup times the air around [schools] was four to six times as polluted as it is normally,” Cooper said. This is particularly dangerous considering the lungs of children are still developing and are more affected by pollution. 

There is often a fine line between protecting the public good and interfering with it, something that both Cooper and city officials are aware of. 

“I for one am not very excited about making people who idle into criminals,” said Councilman Blair Camp. “But I believe this ordinance is a very good middle ground to opening the door to education.”

The ordinance isn’t a very aggressive measure, and it isn’t meant to be. Cooper compared it to when smoking bans first took effect. “It’s supposed to be a soft launch. We’re not trying to be militaristic. Were just trying to raise awareness.”

Right now, idle-free signs are posted on all schools and city-owned property. Going forward, the city hopes businesses will jump on board as well. 

“If we are to be a city of healing, this makes sense,” Turner said.    

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