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Eye On Boise

Committee rejects air quality repeal

Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, failed to persuade the House Environment Committee this afternoon to introduce his bill to repeal last year’s much-negotiated, long-sought air quality vehicle emissions testing bill. The panel voted 6-5 to return the bill to its sponsor rather than introduce it. Harwood told the panel, “What this emission does is got the DEQ chasing the tail. … Our emissions have been going down since the mid-‘70s, down, down, down.” He said he feared the vehicle testing program would spread to North Idaho, because last year’s bill applies statewide to areas where vehicle emissions hit certain levels. “This started out to be an Ada County/Canyon County fight and it ended up to be a full-state emission program,” Harwood said. “We’re spending a pile of money testing for emissions for something that’s not going to make much of a difference.”

Committee members said they went through extensive negotiations and multiple days of hearings last year on the bill, and weren’t inclined to repeal it now just as the DEQ is in the midst of negotiated rule-making to put it into effect. Harwood said he has constituents concerned about the potential effect up north, but neither he nor they has been involved in the rule-making process. He did say, however, that he’s in negotiations with Roy Eiguren, a prominent lobbyist who represents Amalgamated Sugar, a major polluter in Canyon County, on the issue. Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, the committee chairman, said last year’s bill keeps the EPA from taking over Idaho’s state-run emission program. “Last year there was a lot of negotiations that went on to make this bill palatable to the people,” said Raybould, who voted with the majority against introducing the measure. Harwood said his constituents are worried about possible vehicle testing requirements. “That’s been a big concern for folks,” he said, “that we’re going to have to comply when we don’t have any problem.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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