Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It’s Time to End Vehicle Inspections in Pennsylvania

On Wednesday morning, Pennsylvania’s Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance a resolution calling on the federal government to study the continued efficacy of mandatory vehicle emissions tests with the end goal of hopefully doing away with them altogether.

The proposal was introduced earlier this year by the committee’s chairman, Sen. John Wozniak—a Democrat representing parts of Centre County—who says emissions tests are “ineffective and costly” and that modern technology has made them all but obsolete. A similar bill is pending in the state House.

When the federal government began requiring emissions tests in high-population areas in 1984, only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were impacted; today drivers in 25 counties are required to bring their cars to a certified facility every year and shell out as much as $50 to have them hooked up to a computerized emissions gauge that checks the levels of particulates in the exhaust.

Since the requirements are based on where you live and not what you drive, enforcement of the tests is notoriously arbitrary: For instance, a Prius owner in York is required to have an annual emissions test, while the owner of a 1979 pick-up truck across the Adams County line in Abbottstown is exempt.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Wozniak called the tests a “burden” on consumers and cited research that shows modern cars are already 98 percent compliant with federal standards. But even if  Wozniak’s resolution passes (and surely there are thousands of Pennsylvania drivers who hope that it does) there is no guarantee the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will entertain the state’s request; earlier this year the EPA did authorize the city of Anchorage to end mandatory testing—saying cleaner cars have contributed to a drop in the city’s carbon dioxide levels—but Pennsylvania is not Alaska, and other states have had their highway funds threatened for attempting to alter adherence to the guidelines.

My recommendation for Sen. Wozniak would be to use the time while he waits for an answer from the EPA to follow the national trend and do away with Pennsylvania’s own ineffective and costly vehicle inspections—something he and his fellow lawmakers can do without federal permission. Click here to read at The Phily Post