4 schools vying to host California emissions lab

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Four California universities are vying to become the new home for the state's motor vehicle emissions laboratory responsible for clean air research.

For the past four decades, testing by the California Air Resources Board has been done at a facility in El Monte, about 12 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The work has been key to developing the state's smog check and vehicle-emissions standards.

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Now the agency wants new facilities to continue analyzing the types of pollution that are given off by cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and even lawn mowers.

Three University of California schools — Irvine, Riverside, and Los Angeles — and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, have pitched to host the emissions lab, the Orange County Register reported.

State officials have held informal meetings with the schools since last year. The price tag to build the facility will be released later this year, and it could cost as much as $100 million.

Air Resources Board spokesman John Swanton said cars today release 1 percent of the pollution they did in the past. Most of the rules that curbed California's smog problem came from work at the El Monte site, which houses labs, vacuum-sealed testing chambers and storage space.

"This facility, it's really integral to all of our research, all of our development and enforcement activities," Swanton told the newspaper.

University of California, Irvine engineering Professor John Samuelsen, who has worked at the El Monte facility, said the future lab will need equipment to test next-generation motors such as hydrogen fuel cells. "I sense that they recognize that there needs to be a platform built that is purpose-built for that future," he said.

By moving its testing space to a university, observers said the clean air agency can attract international researchers.

"The California standards are always ahead, and that's why the world comes to see how are you testing this standards," Samuelsen said.

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