Residents of Cache County present ideas for fighting valley haze

Is there an alternative solution to a vehicle emission testing program to help Cache County reduce air pollution problems during the winter inversions? Many ideas were presented Tuesday night at a public hearing called by the Cache County Council, some simple and others elaborate.

The council is hoping to come up with a way to avoid implementing a vehicle emissions program which is included in the draft of a so-called SIP (state implementation plan).

Joe Tenant suggested it could be done on a voluntary basis. He says in Salt Lake County thousands of people volunteer to keep their vehicles off the street when air pollution is a problem.

“The problem with charging a fee for driving your vehicle on a red air day,” Tenant said, “a red air day is a red air day because the pollution that has already been generated is trapped.

“Charging a fee eliminates compounding the problem, but it isn’t going to eliminate the pollution that already exists, that is already trapped.”

He says for that reason decisions have to be made long before there is actually a “red air day.”

She was in the minority but Utah State University professor Jean Lown said the county should definitely have a vehicle emissions program and perhaps also implement some of the other proposals.

“I’ve served on search committees at the university where we are losing great candidates because they drive into Logan from the airport on a red air day, they see that Red Air Quality flashing there,” Lown said. “This is a serious problem, not just for our health. When you talk about the costs, the costs are so low, incredibly minimal, in relation to the long term health care costs of this bad air.”

County council members claim an emissions testing program would be an expensive way to deal with a minimum amount of air pollution that occurs approximately 10 days a year. They will study all the ideas that were presented Tuesday. Those ideas included such programs as remote sensing, an enhanced smoking vehicle program, vehicle scrapping program, and voluntary odd and even drive days.

County Executive Lynn Lemon says some of those ideas are worth looking into.

“I’m really quite frustrated with the Division of Air Quality because they were here, they met with us when we met with the Governor,” Lemon said after Tuesday’s meeting. “The Governor said, ‘if you can find something that could take its place we’ll seriously give it consideration.’

“I really thought I heard from them (Tuesday) night, ‘you guys can go ahead and do whatever you want to do but nothing’s going to take the place of emissions testing, so you’re going to have to do it anyway.’ I was really quite frustrated with the whole process.”

Lemon says the county only has about 10 red air days during the year and he believes the amount of air pollution has been reduced in recent years, probably because of the newer cars.

The council will be mulling over all of the ideas received Tuesday night and the issue will come up again at their next meeting. Frustration was evident among the council members who question why Cache County should be forced to have an emissions testing program while neighboring Franklin and Box Elder counties do not.

Utah’s Division of Air Quality and even Utah Governor Gary Herbert have told the county council they are willing to look at an alternative that would keep the county from non-attainment during so-called “red air days” but that solution would have to be approved by the end of December.

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