Thursday, November 20, 2003

Butler leaders fire latest volley in E-check battle

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Butler County commissioners have fired off a snippy letter to the state's chief environmental officer in their ongoing battle over the auto E-check system.

Seeking "nothing but the truth," commissioners responded to an October report this week by posing 15 pointed questions to Christopher Jones, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director.

The first question: Why did it take five months to respond to the commissioners' initial questions last spring?

Commissioners had requested documentation that auto emissions testing had improved air quality in Butler County, one of 14 Ohio counties ordered by the federal government to implement such tests in 1996.

Commissioner Courtney Combs, a strident E-check critic, on Wednesday labeled the October letter "unsatisfactory and incomplete." He's leading the charge to dump the E-check system - he's called it "a major rip-off of the citizens of this state" - when contracts expire.

Commissioners also have asked the EPA to increase the new-car E-check exemption from two years to five years.

Jones had told commissioners in October that E-check had eliminated 35,400 tons of carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds annually in Butler, Hamilton, Clermont and Warren counties. Vehicles that were repaired after failing E-check resulted in an 85 percent reduction in hydrocarbons and a 91 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, he said.

Commissioners asked for more data justifying E-check, including information about cars that failed and were not retested; emissions from vehicles passing through the area on major highways, and pollution reduction by industries.

"The language is kind of tough," Combs says about the letter, "but it's time to get tough. We've been trying to get information out of the EPA for 10 years to show us that E-check works. I think it's bogus."


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