The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is getting closer to requiring emissions tests on cars and trucks in Canyon County in southwest Idaho, but some lawmakers are trying to put a hold on those plans.
Neighboring Ada County currently requires testing on cars every other year when drivers renew their vehicle licenses. Similar fees and schedules could be in Canyon County by this summer. It’s part of a DEQ effort to increase air quality in the Treasure Valley by reducing the amount of ground-level or “bad” ozone. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about half of all bad ozone comes from motor vehicles.
Idaho lawmakers approved rules last month that would let DEQ extend the testing requirement to Canyon County, and DEQ director Toni Hardesty told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday that DEQ is requesting $180,000 from non-general funds in spending authority the next budget to start the program.
“Our intent is to have a program up and running in Canyon County by the summer, when we hit the ozone season,” Hardesty said. She said the department is currently deciding on a contractor to run the program.
Canyon County Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, is working with county commissioners on a letter to Hardesty to delay testing in Canyon County. “They wonder if all the requirements have been met that were set in the legislation,” Bolz said. He said he’s not sure what the next course of action will be. “Once we get the response, we’ll go from there.” Bolz also said he wants DEQ to examine whether surrounding counties, including Gem and Payette, should require emissions testing since they contribute to the region’s air pollution. Bolz said another Republican representative, Dick Harwood of St. Maries, introduced a plan to get rid of the 2007 law letting DEQ oversee emissions testing, but that plan died in a House committee.
Hardesty said DEQ is moving forward with the testing mandate because the department doesn’t want Treasure Valley to exceed EPA air quality standards. State law currently lets DEQ require vehicle testing when an area’s air quality rises above 85 percent of federal standards. The Treasure Valley has exceeded that limit the past four years, according to DEQ. Hardesty said cars contribute to that pollution level. “Motor vehicles constituted one of the top two emission sources contributing to the 85 percent design value,” she said. The EPA released a proposal last month that could lower the federal air quality standard.