Drivers in Canyon County will need to start getting their vehicles tested for emissions including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The emissions test, which costs $11 and is required every other year, is part of a law passed by the Legislature two years ago that gives the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) the authority to administer tests in the hope that pollution in the Treasure Valley won’t rise and trigger federal action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Vehicles in neighboring Ada County are already subject to testing.
Opposition from Canyon County commissioners and some Canyon County lawmakers has been unsuccessful so far. An attempt to block the testing from Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, failed in a Idaho House committee in February. In May, county commissioners sent a letter asking Gov. Butch Otter to delay the testing’s June 1 starting date. The letter claims that there have been problems with the testing program and that Canyon County drivers aren’t responsible for most of the vehicle pollution in the Treasure Valley. “This has been a boondoggle from the beginning, and you, as Governor, have the authority to call a time out, slow down the process, and make sure it’s the right thing to do before it’s too late,” the letter said.
The governor has yet to formally respond to the letter as testing is set to begin in Canyon County. Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary, said the governor’s staff and DEQ are still researching the issue, and could weigh in on the letter this week. The governor told a group of reporters in February that he prefers DEQ’s testing over the potential for federal environmental regulators to get involved with southwest Idaho’s air quality.
Canyon County commissioners have suggested alternatives to vehicle testing, including encouraging carpooling and use of public transportation, to reduce pollution from vehicles. DEQ officials have rejected these proposals, saying they wouldn’t result in emission reductions equal to a vehicle inspection program.
DEQ has contracted with SysTech International to administer the vehicle tests, and has 20 locations for testing in Canyon County. Systech’s website for testing, which has a list of the locations, says that 97 percent of Canyon County residents live within five miles of a testing location. Vehicle owners will be required to get their car tested every other year when they renew their registration. Cars made in even-numbered years must start getting tested this year, and cars made in odd-numbered years will need to be tested next year, under current regulations.