Another attempt to exempt Franklin county from the St. Louis area’s federally mandated vehicle emissions testing program is underway in the Missouri Legislature.
We hope it’s successful this time. Not because we are opposed to clean air but rather because Franklin County has met federal air quality standards for some time. Many feel our county was never really out of compliance with the federal standards and certainly isn’t responsible for the quality of air in St. Louis.
Rather, as a collar county, we were lumped into the St. Louis region because of our proximity to St. Louis, where the real air pollution is being generated.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the St. Louis area a fine particulate matter non-attainment area in 2004 based, in part, on air-quality monitoring data.
Ozone is one pollutant that falls onto EPA’s list of criteria air pollutants, and as such, the state of Missouri is required to regulate the emissions that contribute to its formation.
As a result of the EPA’s designation, the state and the feds mandated a vehicle emission testing program for five counties in the St. Louis region, including Franklin. The St. Louis region is the only area in Missouri where emissions testing is required.
Automobiles are the largest source of the chemicals that form ozone — the primary air pollutant of concern in the St. Louis area. But factories, utilities and the petroleum industry also are contributors to ozone pollutants. Many of these industrial polluters are located in the city of St. Louis and in East St. Louis.
Emission testing is the bane of every car owner in areas that require it. The tests are a hassle and an added expense to owning a vehicle. But experts say this hassle is one of the reasons why our country has achieved dramatic air quality improvements over the past decade.
Fair enough. But is vehicle emission testing still necessary today? Technology to reduce emissions has improved significantly since testing began across the country in the mid-1980s.
Studies have shown as higher polluting cars leave the road, traditional emissions testing is no longer necessary or at least cost-effective for the benefit gained. Newer cars run much cleaner. They are not the same contributor to air pollution they once were.
If that is the case, emissions from cars in Franklin county shouldn’t be a significant issue for the quality of air in St. Louis. Although it’s true a portion of our population commutes to St. Louis for employment, we don’t buy the argument that Franklin County drivers are responsible in any serious way for air pollution in St. Louis.
Neither do officials with Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources who have been working to get a waiver for our county from the state’s vehicle emission program for years.
The state concedes the four counties and St. Louis are in compliance with the EPA’s 2008 ozone standards, and that Jefferson and Franklin counties — excluding Boles Township in eastern Franklin County — meet more-stringent 2015 standards.
The problem with the current legislation exempting Franklin county — as well as St. Charles and Jefferson counties — from the emission program, is that there is a risk it could result in the loss of $52 million in federal funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has heard this argument before and admits it could kill the legislation this yearE as it has in the past.
Meanwhile, Franklin County is stuck in bureaucratic limbo with the state and feds when it comes to the vehicle admission testing — a program that is no longer necessary due to better automotive technology and never should have been implemented in our county in the first place.