EPA toughens smog requirements; E-check to return?

When the e-check station across the street closed, Undercar Specialty Warehouse on Springfield Street saw a huge drop in sales of catalytic converters overnight. Owner Mike Weprin wasn’t surprised, he saw the meteoric rise in sales when E-check first started.

He admits e-check was good for business, but as many, he felt the process was flawed since it only covered specific counties. Had the system been state or nationwide, it would have probably accomplished what it was supposed to do: cut smog emissions. Of course cars are only a small part of the problem, but when you consider how many cars we have on the road today, and that the average car is now 11 years old, it’s time to examine the long term benefits of making as little smog as possible.

The EPA is currently trying to improve the standards, yet powerful industry groups are fighting the higher standards:

EPA toughens smog requirements; 345 counties now in violation

The air in hundreds of U.S. counties is simply too dirty to breathe, the government said Wednesday, ordering a multibillion-dollar expansion of efforts to clean up smog in cities and towns nationwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it was tightening the amount of ozone, commonly known as smog, that will be allowed in the air. But the lower standard still falls short of what most health experts say is needed to significantly reduce heart and asthma attacks from breathing smog-clogged air….

In recent weeks, some of the most powerful industry groups in Washington have waged an intense lobbying campaign at the White House, urging the administration to keep the current standard.

Electric utilities, the oil and chemical industries and manufacturing groups argued that lowering the standard would require states and local officials to impose new pollution controls, harming economic growth, when the science has yet to determine the health benefits conclusively. The 80 parts per billion standard was enacted by the EPA in 1997, but its implementation was delayed for several years because of court challenges by industry groups.

“Hundreds of counties haven’t been able to meet the current standard set a decade ago,” said John Kinsman, senior director for environment at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents most of the country’s power companies. “Moving the goalpost again will inflict economic hardship on those areas without speeding air quality improvements.”

The EPA has said, based on various studies, cutting smog from 80 to 75 parts per billion would prevent between 900 and 1,100 premature deaths a year and mean 1,400 fewer nonfatal heart attacks and 5,600 fewer hospital or emergency room visits. A separate study suggests that tightening the standard to 70 parts per billion could avoid as many s 3,800 premature deaths nationwide.

Ohio often amazes me with what vehicles are allowed to be licensed to travel our roadways. In some states, mandatory annual inspections require cars to have things like bumpers, fenders, windows, exhaust systems and even, working catalytic converters. In Massachussets you can’t drive a car with visible body rust.

While I can already hear people screaming about invasion of privacy, there are costs to allowing cars in poor shape on the roads- they are more likely to be involved in accidents and are causing more pollution. Mandatory inspections also help auto repair shops keep working- creating a large number of small and independent small businesses to keep the economy rolling. Not to mention, it also spurs sales of new cars, something that Detroit should love.

You also have to wonder about those catalytic converters that aren’t flying off the shelves at Undercar Specialty Warehouse anymore? Do you all of a sudden think that there aren’t cars that still need them? Or is it that we just stopped caring about what we breath?

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