26 counties in North Carolina will soon no longer require emissions testing after recent legislation and EPA approval.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Division of Air Quality (DAQ), submitted the revised I&M State Implementation Plan (SIP) and Clean Air Act Section (CAA) 110(l) noninterference demonstration to remove the 26 counties from the I&M program to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval on November 17,2017.
On July 16, 2018, EPA signed the proposed rule and sent a notice of proposed rule making to the Federal Register for publication in late July or early August.
The 26 counties are: Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Craven, Edgecombe, Granville, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, Orange, Pitt, Robeson, Rutherford, Stanley, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilkes, and Wilson.
In April 2015 WataugaOnline.com, then WataugaRoads.com, reported that a study by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and presented to the General Assembly, said that emissions tests for cars and trucks are no longer necessary to protect air quality in more than half the counties where state testing is currently required.
Legislators in 2013 directed DENR to conduct a study on whether all of the counties covered under the motor vehicle emissions testing program are needed to meet and maintain current and proposed federal ozone standards in North Carolina. Cars and trucks collectively are the largest source of emissions that lead to ozone formation in the state.
At the time of that report it was noted that the elimination of emissions tests would save car owners $16.40 per vehicle each year in counties where tests are currently required after the first three model years, state officials estimate. Safety inspections are still required in all 100 counties, costing owners $13.60 per vehicle each year.
The next steps are the EPA will take public comments on the proposal for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. After considering any comments received, EPA may move forward with a final rule making action in the Federal Register. Generally, final rules are effective 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. NC DEQ provides certification to Reviser of Statutes within 30 days after EPA publishes its final approval in the Federal Register. Division of Motor Vehicles will begin program implementation the first day of a month that is 60 days after that certification.
All counties will still require the safety inspection.
The new action is also due to the Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016 introduced by Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Burnsville) and then-House Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) which included a provision that would remove vehicle emissions testing requirements in 26 of the 48 N.C. counties that had them.
Rep. Presnell told The Smoky Mountain News in June 2016, that “people in my district cannot afford to replace parts on their cars that cost hundreds of dollars that do little to nothing to improve emissions. My constituents are tired of paying good money for useless government-mandated testing.”
“I am very pleased to see this finally occur. It was a long wait,” Presnell told The Smoky Mountain News on July 23.