Poorest N.C. counties would get a break on vehicle emissions testing costs


RALEIGH – House lawmakers just passed House Bill 169, a measure to end air emissions inspections in 28 counties. The measure is effective in 2020 or when the EPA approves the move, whichever is longer.

The news is expected to be welcome in the small towns affected. Twenty-two of the 28 counties are Tier 1 or 2, meaning they are among the most economically distressed in the state. According to locals, saving that $16 annual emissions testing cost will go a long way for vehicle owners.

An amendment was proposed on the floor that would expedite implementation of the measure to Jan. 1, 2016, in accordance with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommendations in a 2013 study. However, economic concerns over the cost of equipment to garage owners and the budgetary impact to the DMV pushed the date out four years.

“If you stop this January 1, 2016, there will be a cost to the state because $6 of each inspection comes to the DMV…. I respectfully request that you vote no on the amendment,” House Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) said on the floor.

The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) came after DENR reported to lawmakers that these 28 counties have air quality that is better than the federal standards and the emissions testing has become unnecessary.

The bill delays implementation to allow garage owners to recoup the costs of testing equipment. The equipment costs $7,000-$10,000.

“I believe that businesses should have the ability and opportunity to recoup their investment, it should not be the responsibility of all the taxpayers,” said Hager.

Once it takes effect, the measure will save vehicle owners approximately $16 per year each and $31 million per year across the affected counties.

The bill now goes to the Senate.