Harwell joins push to stop vehicle emissions testing in TN

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is running for governor, Thursday threw her support behind legislation that would end vehicle emissions testing in the six counties where it’s now required, reports the Times Free Press.

The bill (HB1782) is sponsored by two Hamilton County legislators, Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson. Besides Hamilton and Davidson County, which Harwell represents, the bill would also apply to Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties.

Carter and Watson introduced the legislation, saying they believe the testing is no longer needed because the entire state now complies with the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality health standards on particle pollution, as well as smog.

“The honest truth is we’re at 100 percent [attainment],” Harwell said after Thursday’s House session. “We really have clean air in this state and it makes sense if everyone’s going to do it, but just to have a few counties that do it and not everyone, that doesn’t make sense. Because air doesn’t stay within a county ”

The “bottom line,” Harwell said, is “it’s a hassle to people and it really hurts the poor.” She praised Carter’s bill as “good legislation.”

But Bob Colby, director of the Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, and others say it’s not as simple as that, because the use of vehicle emissions testing, known in official parlance as “inspection and maintenance” programs, was key in getting air pollution down to acceptable limits per the EPA

Carter said that the EPA has a menu of approaches states and localities can take to address air quality. But experts say finding stationary sources that can be cut out of the equation, such as shutting down a factory, to make up for additional vehicle emissions could prove difficult in some areas.

During a Times Free Press interview on Wednesday, Bob Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, agreed.

“The plan is to get you into attainment and then maintain that so you don’t backslide,” Martineau said.

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