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Can stickers curb gunk better than emissions tests?

Published November 7, 2012 6:39 pm

Environment • Alternative emissions program would give residents choice, work better than state plan.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cache County wants to try out its stickers to keep winter pollution down instead of using auto emissions tests.

County Councilman Craig Peterson gave his pitch Wednesday to the Utah Air Quality Board.

"We're kind of rebels," said Peterson, a member of the air-quality board who pointed to a resolution on the sticker program that the County Council passed Oct. 23. "This is our proposed alternative to emissions testing."

State regulators have described emissions-testing in Cache County as the only pollution control that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ready to sign off on as part of a comprehensive plan for reducing PM 2.5 spikes in northern Utah. And they signaled Wednesday that they're still skeptical that the EPA would approve the Cache plan because it would be hard to enforce it and to prove it works.

"EPA has never approved a program like this," said Joe Thomas of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

Although a team of air-quality scientists and regulation experts have been working on the comprehensive plan for three years, the plan to cut PM 2.5 pollution episodes still falls short of required reductions. The team has looked at smokestack industrial plants, homes and small businesses and cars and trucks, but plans for the Wasatch Front counties fall short of making the required emissions cuts by the EPA's 2014 deadline — or even with an extension to 2019.

And, in the Cache Valley, emissions testing is considered a crucial tool to cut key pollutants.

The Cache County alternative would require anyone who drives on yellow or red air-quality days to display a sticker on the rear window that certifies the vehicle's emissions are low enough. Otherwise, they face a warning on the first violation or fines for subsequent ones.

Peterson provided a point-by-point rebuttal of EPA's concerns about the county's alternative program. The county attorney has written a legal opinion that says the state has no authority to force emissions testing.

fahys@sltrib.com

Twitter: @judyfutah