YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Agency to Allow Snowmobiles Exceeding Pollution Limits

The National Park Service will permit machines in Grand Teton and Yellowstone that don't meet new standards.

September 17, 2003|Julie Cart | Times Staff Writer

National Park Service officials said Tuesday they will allow some snowmobiles this winter to exceed the pollution limits set by the Bush administration as part of the policy to permit snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

When the park service announced it would not enforce a snowmobile ban, which was to go into effect last winter, officials said they would seek to curb pollution from the machines by setting limits for carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions. They also said they would test for engine noise.

On Tuesday, park service officials said they would certify the machines on the basis of two different testing methods. One gauges average emissions. The other, stricter measurement records an engine's highest emission levels.

Testing data supplied to the park service showed that some late-model snowmobiles failed to pass muster when the stricter measurement was applied. Park officials said they would not prohibit those snowmobiles, saying that it was enough that the machines met the standard based on average emissions.

By allowing snowmobiles to be certified by the less stringent measure, park officials acknowledge that it is inevitable that some snowmobiles in Yellowstone this winter will exceed the agency's emissions limits.

Yellowstone Supt. Suzanne Lewis said Tuesday that the park service had certified 10 models from two manufacturers, Arctic Cat and Polaris, even though two Polaris models failed the stricter of the two emissions tests and exceeded noise limits set by the parks.

The controversial decision to cancel the Clinton administration's snowmobile ban in Yellowstone and neighboring Grand Teton was based, in part, on assurances from manufacturers that new technology would produce models that would reduce harmful emissions and run more quietly.

Yet, only three of the 10 certified models from both manufacturers were from the 2004 model year, said Yellowstone chief planner John Sacklin. And, according to testing data released by Yellowstone, all of the new models tested significantly higher for carbon monoxide emissions than their 2002 counterparts.

One 2004 model, made by Polaris, emitted far more hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide than the same model made in 2002.

Two of Polaris' 2004 models tested louder than the parks' noise limits, but will be allowed to operate in the parks if the machines are fitted with a noise abatement device, Yellowstone officials said.

Sacklin said the decision to accept the machines was made in fairness to the manufacturers, which had already begun producing machines by the time the park began to consider which emission standards to use for certification.

"The park will use both measurements this winter, and we're asking the public to give us guidance as to which measurement we should use for the future," Sacklin said.

Industry officials question the park's testing procedures, saying that portions of the noise tests are conducted at speeds not allowed in the park, producing higher decibel results.

Los Angeles Times Articles