Although Canyon County prefers alternatives to emissions testing, a joint emissions program that's not federally mandated would be the nation's first
The air pollution debate in the Treasure Valley for the past decade has always turned on the disagreement between Ada and Canyon counties about mandatory emissions testing.
The fight has obscured the Valley's success in cleaning up carbon monoxide and particulate pollution tied both to cars and wood-burning stoves.
And as they lean on Canyon leaders to adopt more stringent rules and lament how slow that change has been, Boiseans tend to forget that Ada County went to mandatory testing only after the federal government forced it in the 1990s.
In fact, if Ada and Canyon counties do come together with a joint auto testing program, it would be the first in the country put in place before a region violated federal air standards. The effort could land the region among the nation's leaders for addressing pollution.
But even that would just be a start.
Experts from around the country and the Treasure Valley Air Quality Council say the only way to keep the Valley's air healthy and to prevent federal restrictions is to reduce the miles Treasure Valley residents drive.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently designated Franklin County on the Utah border and Pinehurst near Coeur d'Alene "nonattainment areas" for fine particle pollution, a designation that requires polluters to offset any new pollution and forces communities to demonstrate new roads won't add to pollution.
The Treasure Valley narrowly missed the designation when fine particle pollution dropped in 2007. But the Valley is very close to exceeding federal standards for ozone, a pollutant similar to fine particles.