ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says he wants to restart efforts to stop vehicle emissions testing.
Sullivan says the program is an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. He says citizens spend an estimated $9 million a year on tests and related repairs to make sure Anchorage is in compliance with federal air quality standards.
The mayor says newer vehicles are cleaner than those of yesteryear and the vast majority of vehicles pass testing.
"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. "I think it's time to recognize that the program did what it was supposed to do. Our air quality is so vastly improved with the new car standards, as older cars get replaced with newer cars. It really is no longer a problem in Anchorage."
Sullivan's staff has already begun working to get the city decertified from Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation requirements. If successful, the city could decide to end emissions testing.
The mayor estimated the process would take between a year and 18 months, but he wants to get Assembly approval before decertification so testing could end quickly.
The administration plans to introduce the proposed ordinance on April 13, with public comments beginning April 27. This would be at least the third time the Assembly has debated the program.
In November 2007, the Assembly went as far as voting to end emissions testing, but its decision was reversed eight months later by a new Assembly with a different political makeup.
Assemblyman Matt Claman expressed the need to proceed cautiously.
"Passing legislation now is premature because we need to get, essentially, permission from the feds to opt out before we do it," Claman said. "I think the first step should be to address this (with the EPA) before we take steps that could hurt us in the future. The last thing we want to do is be out of compliance."
The program was created in the mid-1980s to control pollution and to bring the city into compliance with federal air standards. Anchorage carbon monoxide readings declined significantly after it started.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough in January ended its inspections and emissions tests after 25 years. Officials stopped testing because carbon monoxide levels in Fairbanks have been in compliance with federal standards since 2000.
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