BOISE – A divided House committee Wednesday refused to gut Idaho’s 2-year-old vehicle emissions testing law after Gov. Butch Otter came out against the proposal on grounds it could prompt federal intervention.
The House Environment Committee voted 6-5 against Republican Rep. Steve Kren’s bill. It sought to prevent the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality from requiring a vehicle testing program in counties with pollution problems, once the agency had determined a county’s alternative plan wouldn’t be effective.
Southwestern Idaho’s airshed has been a concern since the 1970s, when violations of federal air quality standards first surfaced. The Department of Environmental Quality says vehicle emissions make up one of the top two emission sources contributing to the Treasure Valley region’s ozone, a key ingredient in smog that can cause heart and asthma attacks.
The fight over vehicle emissions testing has split the region along geographical and political lines for years – urban Ada County has tested cars since 1984, while rural Canyon County has long been against it. This battle came to a head in 2008 when the emissions testing law passed after hours of heated hearings.
A majority of the panel Wednesday opted to let that work stand.
“This would gut what we did,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, of Kren’s bill. “If we have too much more debate on this, air quality is going to improve, because I’m going to quit breathing.”
Idaho’s law requires counties to implement measures to reduce pollution when ozone levels reach 85 percent of the EPA standard for non-attainment.