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End of Anchorage emissions testing awaits EPA approval

  • Author: Andrew Jensen
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published April 24, 2011

Fair or not, Alaskans have something else to blame on the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Nearly a year after the Anchorage Assembly voted to end vehicle emissions testing, the long-awaited and clamored-for end won't be coming until 2012 at the earliest. That's thanks to the federal rulemaking process and the six-month period after receiving EPA approval written into the Assembly action to allow businesses to wind down their emissions testing.

The state sent its revisions to the EPA Region 10 office in Seattle last August, a little more than three months after the unanimous Assembly vote May 11 to end the emissions testing program.

The municipality was informed eight months later in mid-April that the EPA had completed its technical analysis of the proposed revisions to the state Air Quality Control Program -- which numbered fewer than 70 pages -- and the analysis is now under review by the Region 10 legal department.

Once the legal review is complete, the EPA will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register, starting the clock on a 30-day public comment period. At the end of the 30 days, the EPA will prepare a final rulemaking action incorporating public comment and modify the action accordingly.

Even if the EPA published the proposed rule now, the 30-day statutory comment period and six-month wind down in the ordinance would push the final emissions tests into 2012.

According to statute, the EPA has 18 months to review and make a decision on the proposed changes.

Air quality monitoring under the Clean Air Act in Anchorage in place since 1985 is technically a state responsibility, but a memorandum of understanding in place gives the municipality local control. Anchorage hasn't violated its air quality standard since 1996.

Officials at EPA Region 10 could not comment on whether the technical analysis approved of the changes, and could not offer guidance on how long the legal review could take.

"I haven't heard anything as far as when we'll receive a decision," said Ty Coleman, who administers the program for the municipality.

Air quality monitoring will continue even if emissions testing is eliminated, and the municipality hasn't yet come up with a revenue stream to offset the lost revenue.

The municipality received $18 from each emissions, or i/m, test to fund the program with a total annual budget of around $1.5 million.

In order to receive $115,000 from the EPA, Anchorage must contribute a minimum of $330,000 to the monitoring. A new revenue source to fund monitoring will be necessary to keep local control. Some kind of vehicle registration fee, perhaps as low as $3 or $4 -- based on about 94,000 tests in the municipality annually -- could generate the $330,000 needed to receive the EPA matching grant.

That will be a small price to pay for Anchorage residents fed up with shelling out $68 every two years for emissions tests.

By ANDREW JENSEN

Alaska Journal of Commerce

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