PHOENIX – Should Arizona loosen the rules when it comes to car emissions?
Some people think it's a good idea, even the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
The department held a public hearing on the possible repeal of the Clean Cars Program and, other than state officials, nobody approved of the idea to eliminate the program.
Stacey Mortenson, with the American Lung Association of Arizona, was at the hearing.
She says the state needs to take action to clean up the air. “The Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale area, on the 2011 ‘State of the Air’ report, was ranked as the 19th most polluted city in the country.”
Arizona adopted the Clean Cars Program in 2008 following in the footsteps of California and a dozen other states.
At the time there wasn't a federal program but, that changed in 2010. Now the ADEQ wants to lower its current requirements down to the federal standard.
That would reduce the emissions requirements for car manufacturers on 2012 and newer models. It would also eliminate the state’s requirement that car companies sell a certain percentage of zero emission cars. Zero emission cars are usually powered by electricity instead of gas.
According to ADEQ, Arizona lawmakers have made it very difficult to implement strong environmental standards.
Lawmakers passed a new bill in 2010 that requires a vote for any change in environmental policy that would be considered more stringent than what is required by the federal government. That also makes it difficult for Arizona to participate in the sometimes evolving Clean Cars Program. Every small change would require another vote.
Trevor Baggiore with ADEQ believes the state can't afford to build the infrastructure needed for electric and alternative fuel cars, which is required by the Clean Cars Program. "We don't have electric car charging stations, or battery swap out stations. California spent millions getting prepared."
Critics of this move say repealing the measure will cost the state millions if not billions in the long haul.
Jennifer Bonnett, with the Arizona Public Health Association, explains, "The cost for caring for asthma is exorbitant. In 2008 we had over 30,000 ER visits and public funds pick up about half of that. We paid over 53 percent of that."
Bob Yuhnke, with Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, says, “The money that we don’t spend on gas stays here cause the electricity is produced in the state and we are not buying fuel imported from other countries.”
ADEQ will pass their information on to the governor’s regulatory review committee. 3TV is told they will likely have this repealed by September or October.