Pennsylvania Considering Emission Inspection Changes

Efforts are underway in the Pennsylvania legislature to modify the state’s vehicle emissions inspection program. The Senate passed a five-bill package June 25 that would …
• Exempt vehicles newer than eight years from emissions testing. (Senate Bill 742)
• Change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement for vehicles older than eight years. (SB 743)
• Remove Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland — counties meeting or exceeding air quality standards — from the testing requirement. (SB 744)
• Replace certain “outdated” tests in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions for subject vehicles with model year 1992-’95 and subject light-duty trucks with model year 1996 or newer. (SB 745)
• Extend the date for existing emissions inspection stations to obtain new emissions testing equipment from later this year to July 1, 2021. (SB 746)

The House will consider the changes next.

Pennsylvania’s existing Vehicle Emissions Inspection & Maintenance (I/M) Program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions test for gasoline-powered passenger cars, vans and light-duty trucks model year 1975 and newer. (Diesel-powered vehicles are federally exempt from an annual emissions testing, and other vehicles — such as motorcycles — are exempt in Pennsylvania.)

The bills’ main sponsors — Sen. Kim Ward (R), who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R) — maintain that the current rules are ineffective and outdated and an unnecessary expense to constituents.

The Auto Care Association and Automotive Service Association (ASA) oppose the bills.

“While these measures are well-intentioned, they unfortunately could lead to negative consequences for consumers, motorists and Pennsylvanians down the road,” Auto Care Association Director of State Affairs Tom Tucker said. “If these bills are rejected by the Federal EPA, the state could lose federal highway funds that benefits all motorists. Additionally, PEN-DOT and the industry have embarked upon an extensive emissions system upgrade for stations that participate in the emissions testing program.”

Nearly 50% of those stations have already invested in the necessary upgraded equipment to modernize the Pennsylvania program, according to Tucker.

“These modifications are designed to meet changes in vehicle technology while extending a vehicle’s time on the road as well as ways to conserve fuel and reduce emissions,” he said.

Bob Redding, ASA’s Washington, DC representative added that the legislature needs to hear input from small businesses and consumers before proceeding.

“It took years for the U.S. EPA and states to implement effective emissions inspection and maintenance programs that worked for better air quality, small businesses and consumers,” Redding said.  “In addition to health and environmental impact, having cars inspected by professionals does add value to the life of the vehicle, the second-largest purchase most consumers ever make.

“There is no need to fast-track this legislation. It should be stopped, inclusive stakeholder groups formed and a report provided the legislature as well as the public.”

If signed into law, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to prepare a revised state implementation plan (SIP). The revised SIP would require review and approval by the EPA before the reform measures would take effect “ensuring that Pennsylvania is not in jeopardy of losing any federal highway funding,” according to the bills’ sponsors.    — Sarah Hollander