DENVER -- Colorado lawmakers began to ask state officials about the ongoing need for vehicle emissions testing after mechanics told the Denver7 Investigates team that vehicles are failing tests when they should not be.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment presented its goals and priorities to a joint committee of lawmakers who held an accountability hearing at the State Capitol in advance of the legislative session, which begins on Wednesday.
Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, questioned the cost effectiveness of the testing as CDPHE begins to undergo a statutorily-required audit this year. The last audit in 2012 said air quality was likely to improve along the Front Range with or without the testing since automakers keep manufacturing cleaner vehicles.
"Folks in my district are very concerned about that cost effectiveness," Humphrey said.
The 2012 audit found the testing in Colorado reduced emissions by less than one percent of the national ozone standard.
In 2015, CDPHE said the testing cost Coloradans roughly $50 million -- half in fees, half in repairs.
CDPHE officials defended the program regardless. First, they pointed out how a vehicle emissions testing program is federally-mandated in Colorado. Second, they said the small benefits of the program are worth the costs.
"It is tough to make a difference in ozone concentrations and, so, the half a part per billion -- I don't remember the exact number from that audit -- is a significant difference," Chris Colclasure of CDPHE's Air Pollution Control Division said to the lawmakers.
He also said Colorado has made significant efforts to assist people who drive vehicles that are borderline -- failing on tests at one testing station, then passing at a different station with less than an hour between tests.
"We certainly are interested in making sure that our programs are as effective and cost-effective as they can be," Colclasure said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, the Denver7 Investigates team is continuing to investigate testing headaches reported by drivers who believe they're being treated unfairly by the testing program's rules. In particular, mechanics say the state is forcing hybrid vehicle owners to get repairs to vehicle components that have no impact on emissions.