$123 million? Some N.C. drivers may pay longer than necessary for emissions inspections 

I77-85 junctionRALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimates that delaying the end of emissions inspections in some counties will cost drivers in those areas $31 million annually and $123 million over four years.  House Bill 169, is on the House calendar today and is gaining wide support for ending vehicle emissions inspections requirements in 29 counties.

Majority Leader Mike Hager sponsored the bill after a DENR study submitted to lawmakers in March reported the rural areas on the list are well below the federal air quality standards and testing there is unnecessary.

The bill is getting wide support except for one part. It delays the end of the emission inspections until 2020 or when the U.S. EPA approves it, whichever is longer. The EPA has 18 months to take action once the revised state implementation plan is submitted.

The four year delay comes after lawmakers said garage owners have been calling legislative offices to request that they get time to recoup their investment in the emissions testing equipment.

“The 2020 date was put in place to allow these businesses that have invested in equipment to fulfill the statutes to have time to recoup their investments,” said Hager. “I believe that businesses should have the ability and opportuimage1nity to recoup their investment, it should not be the responsibility of all the taxpayers.”

But the delay is drawing some fire because that same DENR study recommended ending the emissions testing January 1, 2016. When the emissions testing requirement goes away, each of the owners of 1,880,953 registered cars in those counties will save $16.40 per inspection. That is more than $123 million dollars from 2016-2020 that North Carolina car owners in those counties will spend on unnecessary emissions testing over those four years. For perspective, the current Senate budget allocates $29 million annually for textbooks and digital school resources for the entire state.

“Air quality has improved, and there are no monitors that violate the 2008 ozone standard or the fine particle standards,” said Crystal Feldman, DENR spokesperson. “[The N.C. Division of Air Quality] estimates that removal of these counties will not interfere with the state’s ability to continue to attain and maintain all current air quality standards and therefore believes the EPA will approve the proposed changes.”

If the bill passes the House, it would still need to be approved by the Senate and then go to the governor.