Reinstate county emissions tests

High ozone levels have been reported in the Tampa Bay area during the past few days. Many factors, such as stagnant weather and auto emissions, contribute to the higher-than-normal levels. However, one factor ? auto emissions ? could have been lessened had Hillsborough County not chosen to eliminate emissions testing in July of 2000. While targeting large businesses such as Tampa Electric Co., auto emissions testing should be reinstated to help reduce air pollution in the Bay area.

Last year, more than 1,000 people wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency protesting the end of auto emissions testing. The tests, conducted once a year at a cost of about $10 per vehicle, were often a point of complaint for residents saying they felt the exams were a waste of time and money.

The decision by Gov. Jeb Bush to end the testing without the EPA?s approval was a technical violation of the Clean Air Act. Many cities and states have made similar decisions to end testing, and in return, lost several millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

The loss of funding and the increase in pollution are two large drawbacks to the tests that cost $10. Now, in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee county, citizens are being encouraged to stay indoors due to high ozone levels. Ozone exposure can harm people who have respiratory problems, children and the elderly. People who spend too much time outdoors in areas with high ozone levels may experience shortness of breath and chest pain when breathing deeply.

These problems and drawbacks have the potential of being minimized through the reinstatement of the auto emissions testing. The Florida Legislature should not ignore this mistake and should move to rectify it as soon as possible in order to ease high ozone levels across the Bay area.