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Convenience vs. clean air

If something stinks in the air these days, it’s probably coming out of your tailpipe.

By a 3-2 vote last week, the Pitkin County commissioners placed convenience over clean air on their list of priorities and scrapped the nearly 15-year-old emissions testing program.

The vote came after a debate that was hotter than the tailpipe of a ’71 GTO in a L.A. drag race. After the race was over, it was the environment that got burned.



Commissioners Dorothea Farris, Patti Clapper and Shellie Roy voted to kill the program, an annual test of tailpipe emissions designed to red flag cars that emit unusually high amounts of dangerous pollutants.

The reasoning behind their votes included the inconvenience it causes midvalley and downvalley residents and the time county employees spend administering the program.




Jack Hatfield and Mick Ireland argued the program should be kept in place until a monitoring program could be set up to determine the effectiveness of emissions testing.

Such testing starts with leaving the program intact and testing the air for pollutants over a certain period of time. Once a baseline is established, the emissions program can be suspended to see what all those untested cars and trucks are doing to the air.

Wayne Ethridge, former county commissioner and current emissions tester, told the commissioners in December that although only a small fraction of cars tested fail, catching those cars is important to the environment. “We’ve chased a lot of really bad cars out of Pitkin County. Without the testing program we could not do that,” Ethridge said.

It’s still important to chase those cars out. Unfortunately, the three commissioners have made it so that’s no longer possible.


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