Tackling Tailpipe Emissions, One Car at a Time



Program to get low-income families on the road again, reduce emissions


During winter months, particulate pollution presents more of a health issue in Salt Lake City than many other places. Because of its unique bowl-like geography, warmer air often traps colder air – and emissions – lower to the ground.  This phenomenon combined with sunlight and naturally occurring ammonia in the air can create unhealthy levels of PM2.5 pollution until the next storm system blows the bad air out of the valley.


Half of these emissions come from the vehicles on the road.


One way Salt Lake’s Department of Health has tackled this issue is making sure every car meets emission standards. Any owner of a vehicle with failed emissions equipment must have the vehicle repaired before the car can be licensed for use in Utah. 


But, this can be a challenge for those who can’t afford to repair their cars, and many still remain on the road through a hardship waiver of the emissions standard. 


While the waiver helps a family keep their source of transportation on the road, this is not the best option for air quality because a car that fails an emissions test can pollute the air up to 100 times more than a car operating within emissions standards.


So, SLC’s Dept. of Health established the Vehicle Repair Assistance Program (VRAP), a program that helps low income families with the costs of repairing their vehicle if it fails an emissions test.


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In the pilot year of the program, 48 vehicles were repaired, with the average cost of repair being about $650. As a result, pollution from these cars was drastically reduced, with the average hydrocarbon reduction at 89% and the average carbon monoxide reduction at 95% according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.


The goal of VRAP is to reduce the number of emissions waivers by a third, or by about 135 vehicles a year. Andeavor wanted to help. They provided a three-year grant of $300,000 to VRAP to help ease the burden of costly car repairs, and raise the qualifying income limits so more residents can receive assistance.