Cache County Council narrowly passes vehicle emissions testing program

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 4:05 p.m. MDT

Murky air from the inversion files the skies over Logan Tuesday morning, Jan. 22, 2013.

Mike Anderson, Deseret News

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LOGAN — The Cache County Council passed an ordinance Tuesday it hopes will help clear the air.

By a 4-3 vote, the council implemented a vehicle emissions and maintenance program. While a new emissions program is considered a victory for some, others say it's a lot of money being thrown at only part of the county's air quality problem.

Putting a limit on the amount of smog cars can blow out the tailpipe comes as a bit of good news for Utah State University associate professor Randy Martin.

"It's something we've been looking forward to for almost 10 years," Martin said.

He conducted a long-term study on pollution in the Cache Valley.

"What we found was between 5 and 10 percent of our vehicles are the high emitters,” Martin said. “And while most of those are older vehicles that you'd kind of expect as the engines get worn in, some are new, some are brand new."

For the past several years, he's pushed the County Council to pass an emissions testing program. In recent weeks, activists even held a rally outside council chambers.

"It really doesn't solve the problem," County Councilman Val Potter said.

Potter said he felt the county was strong-armed into the program by the EPA.

"I feel like $1.8 million for the effect that it's going to have on the air pollution in this valley really isn't justified,” Potter said.

No emissions inspections will be required for gasoline and natural gas powered vehicles that are six model years and newer as of January 1 of any given year. An emissions inspection will be required every other year for vehicles that are seven model years or older.

Emissions testing will be required on odd-numbered years for vehicles with odd-numbered model years and on even-numbered years for vehicles with even-numbered model years. There will be no emissions inspections for vehicles model year 1968 and older.

The emissions testing program will start by the end of the year. The council will review the program at least every five years to evaluate the continuing need for the program.

The council had come up with its own solution that would have taken some of the worst polluters off the roads on bad air quality days, but “the state flatly rejected it,” Potter said.  

Emissions testing is expected to reduce the pollution by about 3 percent to 5 percent.

"I believe that everybody is responsible for what they put into the air and should be willing to make sure that their automobiles are the lowest emissions possible,” Martin said. "It's a harmful thing. There has not been a study that has ever shown this is good for you, or even negligible. There is a health effect, every time you breathe this in."

Both sides seem to agree on one thing: It's just a start, not the solution.

“Until the citizens of Cache Valley get behind this as a group, this is really just a drop in the bucket, and it’s a very expensive drop in the bucket,” Potter said.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

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