2010 March 18: AK Anchorage: The back-and-forth of (auto) emissions testing in Anchorage

2010 March 18: AK Anchorage: The back-and-forth of (auto) emissions testing in Anchorage

Mayor Dan Sullivan wants to eliminate emissions testing in Anchorage. (File/KTUU-DT) Mayor Dan Sullivan wants to eliminate emissions testing in Anchorage. (File/KTUU-DT)
Former Assembly member Dick Traini successfully got the program voted out in 2007, but it was reinstated just a year later. (File/KTUU-DT) Former Assembly member Dick Traini successfully got the program voted out in 2007, but it was reinstated just a year later. (File/KTUU-DT)
Sullivan says the requirement is an unnecessary tax on all vehicle owners for a very small percentage of vehicles that don't meet the requirements. (File/KTUU-DT) Sullivan says the requirement is an unnecessary tax on all vehicle owners for a very small percentage of vehicles that don’t meet the requirements. (File/KTUU-DT)
The Assembly seems to change its mind on I/M testing depending on whether conservative or liberal members dominate its seats. (File/KTUU-DT) The Assembly seems to change its mind on I/M testing depending on whether conservative or liberal members dominate its seats. (File/KTUU-DT)
by Jason Lamb
Thursday, March 18, 2010

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — It’s an issue that the Anchorage Assembly has voted in, voted out and voted back in.
And now there’s a proposal to eliminate it once again.
It’s the city’s inspection and maintenance emissions testing program, which you pay for every two years if you have an older car.
But how do the votes concerning the I/M program coincide with who’s in control on the Anchorage Assembly?
The back-and-forth with the city’s inspection and maintenance testing policies started back in 2007, more than 20 years after the program requiring emission testing of most cars began.
Some on the Assembly in 2007 wanted to get rid of the program and cited evidence that Anchorage’s air quality had vastly improved over the past 20 years.
"The evidence is out there. We can meet air quality requirements and do away with I/M," said then-Assembly member Dick Traini in November of 2007.
The conservative Assembly voted 8-2 in November of that year to eliminate the program in 2010, angering those advocating to keep the plan.
"Unfortunately in this case public health has been a casualty of politics," Marge Larson with the American Lung Association said at the time.
"Sometimes this Assembly is not particularly engaged or committed to planning for the future," Assembly member Sheila Selkregg said then.
Traini, who voted to eliminate the program, gave a stern warning at the time.
"Any attempt to try and change that or to modify it, I will bring motions forward on the Assembly to kill it," Traini said.
But a new year arrived, and with it in July, a change on the Assembly with a new majority of liberal members and without Dick Traini.
The Assembly reinstated the I/M program in one of the new group’s first meetings by a vote of 6-4.
Assembly member Bill Starr urged a then-Mayor Mark Begich veto shortly after, saying the I/M program doesn’t target the real pollution problems in Anchorage.
"I’m all for clear air, but we’re not addressing it through the I/M program. We’re unable to address the things that are going to be our challenges — particulate matters in the air, wood-burning smoke, dust particulate matter," Starr said in July 2008.
That veto never happened and the program remained.
Wednesday Mayor Dan Sullivan announced that he wants to end the program.
"We’re essentially taxing all residents of the city for such a very, very small percentage of cars that don’t pass the test," Sullivan said.
The Anchorage Assembly will see the new ordinance as it’s officially introduced on April 13.
The city says it’s working with the state to remove the requirements that Anchorage participate in I/M testing because the city hasn’t violated EPA air quality guidelines for about a decade.
The change would still require Assembly approval.
Sullivan says even after a vote to end the program, it would still be a year to 18 months before the program ends.
Contact Jason Lamb at jlamb@ktuu.com
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