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COMMISSION SHUNS CENTRAL TESTING

The Utah County Commission has refused to include centralized automobile emissions testing in its fine-particulate pollution control backup plan despite heavy pressure from state air-quality officials.

The apparent act of defiance probably won't sit well with the Utah Air Quality Board. The board will decide April 20 whether to accept the county's proposed contingency measures or insert its own before submitting the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Utah County faces loss of highway funds or restrictions on new industry if it doesn't provide EPA an acceptable plan by July 19.The board likely will put centralized emissions testing back into the plan.

"Such an attempt by the state Air Quality Board to walk over the top of the Utah County Commission will be over my dead body," said Commissioner Jerry Grover.

Dave McNeill, state Division of Air Quality implementation plan manager, said the emissions program must be part of the plan to remove liability from the state. "The only reason we're doing this is to make absolutely sure the county will be liable. There will be sanctions," he said.

The Utah Legislature has charged counties with implementing emissions testing programs. If it fails to do so, EPA will penalize the county, not the state.

"Any attempt by the state Division of Air Quality or the Air Quality Board to trample on my authority regarding this issue will be met with swift, painful, legal retribution in defense of the county," Grover said.

McNeill didn't want to comment directly on Grover's statement. "I think we are trying to work with the county to avoid sanctions," he said.

State and county officials argued in a heated meeting Monday whether centralized testing had to be part of the contingency plan. The state maintains the county committed to the program in January when it approved an ordinance outlining its implementation as part of a carbon-monoxide pollution-control plan.

"That was our thinking," said Barbara Cole, Division of Air Quality mobile sources manager.

County commissioners say the ordinance was passed to apply if they impose centralized testing, not when. They say the program would be costly, ineffective and onerous for motorists.

Grover said the Clean Air Act does not specify what measures a county must include in its PM10 contingency plan. The measures, including tighter restrictions on wood-burning stoves and employer-based trip reduction programs, kick in only if the county violates federal health standards for PM10, which are minute particles that can cause respiratory problems.

The county also faces redesignation from a "moderate" PM10 nonattainment area to "serious" if it exceeds the 150-micrograms-per-day standard. Under that designation, it would have write a new pollution-reduction plan. Commissioner Gary Herbert said that renders the proposed backup plan useless, anyway.

In place of centralized testing, the county proposed two measures aimed at federal agencies. "I guess I'm getting a little tired of always being asked to ante up on these things," Grover said. "I'm willing to push back."

The county wants all federal cars and trucks to be low- or zero-emissions vehicles within a year. That means federal cars would have to be powered by natural gas, propane or electricity. The county also wants to require federal agencies to vacuum sweep federal roads.

"In place of enhanced inspection and maintenance, huh?" Cole wondered.

The Utah County Clean Air Commission endorsed the PM10 contingency plan Tuesday, but at least one member questioned targeting the federal government.

John B. Stohlton, a BYU assistant administrative vice president, called the measures "posturing" and "unenforceable." He said it would take the federal government 30 seconds to find a judge who would sign an injunction.