House approves bill to end vehicle emissions testing in five TN counties

A bill seeking to do away with vehicle emissions testing in five Tennessee counties was overwhelmingly approved Monday evening by the state House and now goes to the Senate, reports the Times Free Press.

Rep. Mike Carter, R- Ooltewah, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, brought the legislation (HB1782) after state officials last year announced Tennessee and the affected counties had become fully compliant with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate emissions.

Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties all implemented EPA-approved vehicle emissions testing programs intended to lower emissions. The bill applies to the five counties under a state emissions-testing company contract. Davidson County (Metro Nashville) has set up its own testing system with its own contractor.

… The bill… directs the five remaining counties to go to the EPA and seek federal approval to change their State Implementation Plans and drop the annual testing many motorists detest.

An amendment added in committee makes clear that if EPA refuses, the ban on the testing would not go into effect. The counties will have to demonstrate to federal regulators that emissions are either low enough that doing away with emissions testing won’t put them out of kilter with air quality standards or find other methods to make up deficiencies.

There was little discussion of the bill Monday on the House floor, but Carter said earlier that “we can’t unilaterally terminate an order from EPA. We have to apply to [EPA]. What the bill does is, now that we’ve reached 100 percent attainment, it forces the counties to submit a plan” to withdraw.

Carter is confident that can occur, noting that EPA allowed Memphis to end its vehicle emission testing program. State regulators say that was possible because a major emissions-spewing factory shut down.

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