The Real Dirt On Clean Air

For growthophobes there may be a silver lining in that yellow cloud of pollution hanging over the Treasure Valley.

Without reductions in current levels of existing pollution, new businesses won’t be able to locate here and dump their vile concoctions into the air. During a recent speech, the Idaho DEQ air quality czar said if businesses were forced to meet current air quality standards, they would likely go elsewhere because it costs too much to meet the standards required at present in the Treasure Valley.

The treasure Valley “airshed” runs roughly from Ontario to Mountain Home in an irregular pattern dictated by topography.

That means the dirty little secret is this: If the air isn’t cleaned up, we won’t be able to attract more business (and people with cars) which will pollute the air.

The Feds have lowered the allowable level of air pollution to 75 parts per billion from the previous level of 85. Big offender is ozone–caused by heat and a chemical cocktail of pollutants. If an area exceeds the limits it is classed as “non-attainment,” invoking a host of regulations, least of which are reduction in federal funds and increased regulation of GROWTH.

Auto emissions account for about half of the pollutants. We also get an unhealthy dose from construction and farm equipment as well as industry. As a DEQ speaker described it, “If you can smell it, it is a pollutant. She cited fumes from delivery trucks dumping gasoline into service station tanks as an example. Also any number of solvents and cleaners used for industrial purposes.

Since vehicles are the biggest offenders, it is only logical to target them for testing and compliance.
Currently laws and local governments have demonstrated a common in ability to get anything done.
Ada county wants to test biannually, but the dudes in the red van would see their incomes cut in half.
Canyon politicos want to “explore alternative methods” to reduce pollution. (Read that, “no emission tests for the 30,000 commuters.)

The GUARDIAN has long called for a simple law that says THOU SHALT NOT POLLUTE. Technology exists to sample moving vehicles–just like radar or laser speed detection. We just need to “write ’em up” regardless of where they come from or the age of their car. Easier said then done.

While science and scientists has a pretty good handle on causes and cures for much of our air pollution, politicians and developers see regulation only as an obstacle to GROWTH.

The result is an evolving system that merely SHIFTS pollutants from one source to another. The prime reason for recent concern about air pollution is that any business/industry wishing to locate in an area like ours will have to demonstrate they will not increase pollution.

In short, the regulations say, “We will allow pollution at a certain level. If you want to come to our area and pollute, you have to reduce existing pollution to make room for your new pollution.” In the true spirit of American business, they have found a method of selling “pollution rights” through something called “carbon credits.”

Those credits need to go to the several hundred thousand motorists who keep their cars in compliance so industry can have the luxury of growing and polluting.

Don’t look for that runny nose or scratchy throat to get better soon.

Team Dave and the City Councilors have enacted an ordinance offering free parking for zero emission vehicles in Downtown Boise as of November 3. A photo op is planned for Thursday morning with the Parking Czar and electric vehicle owners at City Hall. The greenies will get their permits and display at least four cars qualifying for the zero emission perk.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Good comments, Mr. Guardian.

    “If you can smell it, it is a pollutant.” On Sunday evening, we stepped out of a building in south Boise and could clearly smell the sugar factory, 18 or so miles upwind in Nampa. (We were obviously also “smelling” the Canyon County vehicles, but their smell isn’t quite so distinctive.)

    Unfortunately, I see the vehicle emissions testing more as “revenue enhancer” than as “pollution reducer.” I explain why here: You are right – “rolling” testing of all vehicles would likely be more effective, and WAY cheaper.

  2. Problem with testing all cars is the fact that only a small percentage of cars cause the majority of the problems. And then the law is so screwed up you hit a threshold of bills and they let you continue to drive your POS car anyway.

    Solution is to buy up the old crappy cars and turn them into what they really are…scrap metal. Pre 1987 cars are all carbureted and are always a problem. Modern cars are fuel injected and much cleaner for the most part.

    Another solution would be to impound cars when the driver is cited for DWP and no insurance. The impound fees would get rid of a lot of junkers on the road as they would not be worth the impound fee’s. Make the offense a civil matter and stop filling the jails with people who are not really criminals. It may even boost a move to public transportation in the process.

  3. Tom Anderson
    Dec 9, 2008, 12:16 pm

    There are some ‘spectacular’ polluters in the valley who should really be shut down.

    Winter before last, during a ‘no wind inversion’, I started gagging on a horrible smell and thought something nearby was on fire and ran outside to a wall of nasty smelling smoke.

    After checking into the problem, I came to find out that an automotive mechanic shop nearby saves all of their waste motor oil from auto oil changes. They then burn the oil in an old oil burning furnace to heat the place. The cloud of smoke they produce is horrible.

    The shop was on 37th St, just about 3 doors to the North of Clay St., toward the Boise River, in Garden City.

  4. Drive-by testing would definitely be an improvement.
    I’ve talked with several guys who run the current testers; some say that for every 1,000 or so cars they test, they find maybe one that’s out of compliance. A few said they’ve never found one.
    So, $1,000 or so drivers get to drive to the testing station, waste a little time and spend some money for nothing!

    Another quirk:
    My wife’s Miata failed the test one year; computer rejected it because of error number somethingorother. Looked up the error number; it meant a taillight was out. Whatthehell does that have to do with polluting the air? So, had to drive somewhere and get a bulb, put it in, drive to a tester — passed fine. Just a few extra miles of polluting and adding to traffic because of the way the pollution-checker thing works. Dumb.

  5. Lately I have witnessed a number of older deisel pickups riding around Boise belching out black smoke on purpose! One had a giant chrome exhaust pipe comming up through the P/U bed behind the cab. Looked like he was mighty proud of that. They are usually driven with a bunch of young guys sporting a NASCAR look and they look around grinnng as they lay a black smoke screen. One had 2C plates the other E plates. Bet they are burning cheap fuel oil in those rigs or farm subsidy fuel. As usual no cops in sight. The cops probably dig it like they do the deafening exhaust notes from some harley riders.

  6. Our driving habits have as much to do with pollution as growth and our vehicles. Trips under two miles are good contenders for bike or foot transportation. Gas mowers and other small engine powered equipment are big violators. The other item that affects clean air in the TV during the winter months-traction sand.

  7. Unfortunately we live in a world where it’s far and few between that truly care about the air we breath. The only thing I recommend to my friends and family is to get an air purifier and place it in their work and home. Those are the two only places that can be controlled.

  8. There is no such thing as a “zero emissions vehicle”, the emissions are just relocated. If the entire population of Boise started driving electric cars we would need to build a coal or nuclear power plant somewhere near just to meet the needs.

    And don’t even get me started again on the “hybrids”, which aren’t.

  9. Boise Idaho: Small City, Big Air Problem

    The sad truth is that the government in our state continues to choose money over health. Exactly what type of businesses will stay away if they can’t pollute freely?? Certainly not the kind we want.

    I see the results of failed government whenever I ride my bike in the foothills. I’d like to put a Boise web-cam about half way between here and Bogus Basin, so everyone could enjoy the yellow and black plume that drifts into the valley practically every day.

    And it is not only the cars, You can find the stats on the web on several websites. Check out this study from BSU

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