Pitkin County may cease emissions testing | VailDaily.com

Pitkin County may cease emissions testing

Janet Urquhart/Aspen Correspondent

Pitkin County may drop the auto emissions test it requires of residents who register their vehicles here.

Pitkin is the only Western Slope county among the 11 in Colorado that require the tests, which check the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions coming out of vehicle tailpipes.

The county voluntarily implemented the program in 1989, but several considerations have county commissioners wondering if it’s worth continuing, according to Miles Stotts, deputy director of public works. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the matter at a Dec. 17 public hearing and could decide to pull the plug on the program as early as Jan. 1.

Front Range counties that conduct the testing were required to do so because they failed to meet federal clean-air standards. While that is not the case in Pitkin County, it has been forcing residents to have their vehicles tested while neighboring counties do not.

The thousands of motorists who commute to and from Aspen each day aren’t required to have their vehicles tested or repaired if they fail to meet emissions standards.

“We have all these cars coming up from Garfield and Eagle [counties] that aren’t doing it,” said Commissioner Shellie Roy.

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The testing isn’t even required for vehicle owners in parts of Pitkin County – in the Fryingpan and Crystal River valleys.

In addition, vehicle owners find it inconvenient, Stotts said. It is especially so for Basalt residents, since the three available testing stations are located in the Aspen area.

And, programs elsewhere in the state are moving toward a new drive-by kind of testing equipment. Parts are getting difficult to come by for the equipment used here and replacing parts is costly for the station operators.

Vehicles built in 1981 or earlier are tested annually at a cost of $15. Owners of vehicles built after 1981 are only required to get the test every other year, but it costs them $25.

Owners of vehicles that don’t pass the test are required to have them repaired to a certain level in an effort to get them into compliance. The county doesn’t force even the worst-polluting vehicles to be taken off the road, though, if they can’t pass the test, Roy pointed out.

“It’s a great idea. You just don’t get the feeling that it accomplishes much,” she said.

The county clerk and recorder’s office, where vehicles are registered, took a poll of residents and found about 70 percent of them don’t want the testing, according to Stotts.

In 2002, 4,660 vehicle were tested; 565 of them failed, Stotts said. After repairs, 79 percent of them did pass the emissions test, he said. The county doesn’t test diesel vehicles, including heavy trucks and buses.

“The public doesn’t like it. It makes people go out of their way to do something that has some environmental benefit, but it’s probably marginal,” Stotts said.

Whatever the benefits, they are probably felt most keenly in Aspen, said City Councilman Terry Paulson, who questions the wisdom of ending the program.

Mayor Helen Klanderud suggested the council discuss whether it wants to take a position on the matter.

“I think, as a matter of principle, I definitely support [the testing],” she said.