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Health, Science & Environment

Lawmakers Question Emission Tests

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Lawmakers wonder if the safety and emissions programs in place in northern Utah need to be updated. Legislators considered the question on Monday during a meeting of Administrative Rules Review Committee.

Vehicle owners in northern Utah counties are required to have their vehicles inspected periodically for safety and emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires it as part of a statewide plan to protect the air from pollution, especially exhaust from dirty old cars.

Sen. Mark Madsen, a Utah County Republican, is questioning whether that requirement is too much for people who can’t afford the repairs they need to pass the inspection.

“I want clean air and I want safety,” he said. “I also want people to be able to live their lives, and I don’t want them to be regulated to death just to be able to get to their job.”

Madsen told fellow committee members Monday that some neighbors spent a small fortune and they ran into red tape because of the requirement.

About 5 percent of gasoline cars and around 8 percent of diesel vehicles fail the inspections, which are administered by the county health departments.

If people can’t fix their cars, vehicle owners can apply for a one-year waiver.  Some owners register their vehicles in counties where an emissions test isn’t needed. 

“I would also point out that most of the citizens in my county that I interact with are not objecting to the emissions program,” said Lewis Garrett, director of health in Davis County. “They view it as a positive program that cleans up the air, and it does. I think what we are talking about is an extremely small percentage of people that end up with a car that cannot be repaired.”

The state Division of Air Quality projects that the emissions program keeps 14,000 tons of pollution out of the air. That’s more than the total emissions from the Salt Lake Valley refineries.

Lawmakers discussed the possibility of taking the money used for the inspection programs to help people with dirty, old cars buy new, cleaner ones. But they didn’t make any decisions about any new strategies.

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