County kills plan to test air quality
Pitkin County’s smog-control efforts failed a final test yesterday after the board of county commissioners scrapped plans to monitor air quality.
The commissioners instead suggested the city of Aspen bolster its own efforts to curb pollution.
Last month, the commissioners ended the county’s controversial 25-year-old auto emissions testing program, which tested carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions of cars registered in Pitkin County.
At the Feb. 11 meeting, the commissioners expressed frustration over the lack of data regarding air pollution in Aspen, noting that the last comprehensive study was conducted 18 years ago.
County staff was asked to investigate the feasibility of a new study to monitor air quality in the county seat. The City Council pledged $5,000 to help cover the costs of the monitoring program.
If the results of the testing proved alarming, the commissioners agreed, the emissions testing program would be reinstated.
Yesterday, however, the county’s natural resources director told the commissioners that even with the city’s help such a monitoring program was not economically feasible, considering the other environmental concerns of the county.
“A monitoring program would cost a good deal of money,” Miles Stotts said. “And we can’t recommend such a program when we should be spending money on other issues, such as West Nile prevention and water quality monitoring.”
One criticism of the county’s emissions testing program was that it ignored Aspen’s out-of-county commuters. Neither Garfield nor Eagle counties require testing.
Commissioner Patti Clapper said a city program that makes emissions compliance mandatory for local parking permits would address this loophole.
“I don’t care if you live in Timbuktu county, you must get emissions testing to get a parking permit in Aspen,” Clapper said. “I know Aspen can do this. They already have emissions requirements for parking permits in Aspen’s West End.”
Commissioner Jack Hatfield expressed dismay that the county was not taking the lead on emissions testing.
While he agrees county money should be spent on West Nile virus prevention and water quality monitoring, Hatfield said the county should hold no illusions about the implications of its decision.
“I want to make sure that we’re clear here,” Hatfield said. “We are handing over the ball to the city.”
After the meeting Stotts said it probably won’t be feasible for the city to administer its own testing program without the county’s help.
“With what the county decided today, I think it will be difficult and expensive for the city to do its own testing,” Stotts said.
Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Local public health officials don’t think that large numbers of visitors to Aspen and Pitkin County this summer will result in sky-high numbers of COVID-19 cases like it did in the winter.