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Effort to crack down on 'smoking' vehicles chokes in committee hearing

SALT LAKE CITY — A fledgling clean air proposal has choked for now until its legislative sponsor addresses language in the bill that stoked concerns among her colleagues.

HB110, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, would have given the Motor Vehicle Division of the Utah State Tax Commission the ability to revoke a vehicle's registration for noncompliance with vehicle emissions standards.

The bill was supported by the Weber, Salt Lake and Davis county health departments, as well as Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Wasatch Clean Air Coalition and heard Tuesday in the House Transportation Committee.

Brian Cowan from the Weber-Morgan Health Department said the bill would help the agency target the worst offenders. When the program was in place earlier, but without legal authority, Cowan said the health department gave vehicle owners 60 days to make the fixes before any referral was made for registration revocation to the state.

Once the state was alerted, there was another two-week window for owners to comply.

The problem is more rampant than some might suspect, stressed Ingrid Griffee and Davis County health officials.

Griffee said people buy illegal devices to "smoke up" their vehicles and create safety hazards by creating thick plumes of smoke.

"It is a very aggressive act, and it is very dangerous," she said.

In Davis County, the health department logged complaints on 189 vehicles for apparent emission violations.

Arent said she gets calls every day from people in her district concerned about vehicles emitting excessive black smoke.

Some lawmakers, however, questioned language in the bill that would allow the division to do more than simply revoke a registration, but to take action on a person's legal title to the vehicle.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said he wants that language addressed in the bill before he's willing to advance the bill for further debate.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, agreed, saying there's a push this session to have bills ready for the floor and fully vetted by committees before they are advanced.

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