City clamps down on idlers

Columbus government isn't sitting idle as the possibility of stringent federal air quality monitoring threatens the city's future economic development.

On Tuesday, the 10-member Columbus Council is scheduled to vote on a new policy that would prohibit city workers from letting Columbus' heavy-duty vehicles idle for more than five minutes unless in traffic or if it's needed to do a job or handle an emergency.

The city's hope is that reducing the amount of emission from city vehicles will help keep the Columbus-Phenix City area in compliance with federal standards that regulate how much particulate matter — microscopic bits of pollution from car exhaust, factories and construction — the area is allowed to have in the air.

Monitors have registered levels above what's permitted this year, and if air quality doesn't improve, the area could be assigned "non-attainment" status in December 2008. That means the feds would keep a closer eye on projects and development that could contribute more pollution to the air.

Non-attainment status also could scare off new industries looking at moving into the area and could keep companies already here from expanding.

Columbus Council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Government Center Council Chambers.