Proposed emissions testing elimination meets mixed response

Erin Ghere

Environmental groups see a particular portion of Gov. Jesse Ventura’s budget proposal in two different lights: useful progress and harmful to the ecosystem.
Ventura proposed to eliminate the vehicle emissions inspections now required of all cars more than five model years old. The proposed cut could save taxpayers a total of $8 million.
On Feb. 2, a state House of Representatives committee voted 19 to 2 to accept Ventura’s proposal. If accepted by the entire Legislature this spring, the program would be eliminated July 1, 2000.
State officials say that while the program has merit, it is time to approach the problem of air pollution differently.
“The vehicle testing program has really been a successful program, and I think we need to look at where the problems are and where they will be in the future,” said John Hensel, supervisor at the metro district office of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The agency does not see Ventura’s proposal as a threat to the environment, he said.
The governor included in his proposal a move to create a task force to look at the number of miles travelled in the metro area — the real cause behind automobile emissions pollution, Hensel said.
“We need to look at the causes and the concerns right now,” Hensel said. “The ozone and air toxins are the significant problems.”
The current testing system is not designed to address those concerns, he said, therefore the agency does not oppose Ventura’s proposal.
Others disagree, including the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
“It is important that the state have policies to deal with automobile pollution,” said John Curry, a representative for the center.
The center is opposed to the proposal, saying that vehicle emissions testing is a “fine start” at addressing problems.
Two alternatives that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been looking into are cleaner-burning fuel and the partnership task force which Ventura has proposed.
The voluntary fuel project would give motorists the option of buying more environment-friendly fuel for their vehicles.
The task force will look into alternatives to the vehicle emissions testing.
If reinstated in the future, the vehicle emissions testing would be very different in order to service cars with more advanced technology, Hensel added.
The vehicle testing program started in 1991; according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 400,000 tons of carbon monoxide have been kept out of the air since then.