Earlier this afternoon, the House gave its approval to bipartisan legislation that helps residents in 29 rural counties, including Henderson County, by eliminating the requirement that their vehicles undergo annual state emissions inspections. The unnecessary test costs drivers $16.40 per vehicle every year.
“Given the rural, lower-density characteristics of the county, it is appropriate to remove some rural counties where citizens comparatively emit far less mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) from their vehicles,” commented Representative Michele Presnell, a primary sponsor of the bill. “My constituents have expressed to me time and time again that these emissions inspections impose an unnecessary hardship.”
The change would eliminate the required inspection for more than 1.4 million cars and trucks.
“North Carolina’s air quality has improved significantly since emissions testing requirements were expanded for motor vehicles in the early 2000s,” said Donald R. van der Vaart, Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in a news release. “We studied the air quality improvements … and concluded that we could eliminate emissions testing for motor vehicles in numerous counties without harming air quality or violating federal standards.”
Vehicle emissions inspections were first put in place in 2002 as part of an effort to curb pollution in urban counties; currently, 48 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are subject to the requirement. House Bill 169 would remove the following rural counties from the mandate: Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Craven, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Robeson, Rockingham, Rutherford, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilkes, and Wilson.
Legislators worked closely with DENR to craft the bill and to determine the appropriate counties to which it would apply. In a recent report to the General Assembly, DENR concluded 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.
New vehicles are already exempted from these emissions tests during their first model year, and as of April of this year, cars and light-duty trucks which are less than four years old (and with fewer than 70,000 miles) can skip the emissions tests entirely as well. Newer cars and trucks seldom fail the emissions tests during their first three model years, according to North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality.
19 counties, more population-dense and metropolitan in character, would still be subject to the annual vehicle emissions inspection: Alamance, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Orange, Pitt, Randolph, Rowan, Union, and Wake.
The Clean Air Act, a federal law that regulates air emissions, requires states to have Implementation Plans in place to control air pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets national air quality standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health, is required to approve any changes to these plans, and therefore must approve the legislation before it can take effect should it become law.
The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.
To see if your vehicle is already exempted from state emissions inspections, please visit the Department of Motor Vehicles’ 3 Year and 70,000 Miles Exemption Calculator.