Harrisburg – The Senate approved a package of bills on June 25, 2019, reforming Pennsylvania’s vehicle emissions testing program, also referred to as the Vehicle Emissions Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) program. The reform package was spearheaded by Senator Kim Ward (R-39), who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35).
The reform measures would exempt newer subject vehicles, change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement for subject vehicles, and remove counties meeting or exceeding air quality standards from the testing requirement, among other changes. Similar reforms passed in California, which has more stringent vehicle emissions standards than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other jurisdictions that join Pennsylvania in the federally-mandated Northeast Ozone Transport Region.
“Our constituents are paying around $40 for each subject vehicle every year under an outdated vehicle emissions testing program,” said Senator Ward. “Comprehensive legislative action was essential when I heard these subject vehicles are rarely failing and participating counties, like Westmoreland, are in attainment of federal air quality standards. Swift action was taken in the Senate to ensure these reform measures provide regulatory relief and cost savings to our constituents.”
“This historic vote is a culmination of many years of work on this issue. From Senate Resolution 168 to public hearings, to meetings with stakeholders, we have advocated for the removal of emissions testing in counties that have improved their air quality and meet national standards,” said Senator Langerholc. “We have listened to our constituents, I now call on my House colleagues to do the same and pass this package of bills quickly. We must continue to fight for the people of western Pennsylvania who have been saddled with this onerous requirement for far too long.”
Pennsylvania’s federally-sanctioned I/M program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions testing for subject vehicles described as gasoline-powered passenger cars, vans, and light-duty trucks with a model year 1975 and newer. (Diesel-powered vehicles are federally-exempt from an annual emissions testing, and other vehicles such as motorcycles are exempt in Pennsylvania.)
From 2011-17, an average of 5.7 million subject vehicles were tested each year in Pennsylvania and only less than 4 percent of all subject vehicles failed the testing. Half of these subject vehicles are eight years or newer and only less than 2 percent of these newer subject vehicles failed the testing.
The package of bills was introduced by Senator Ward, Senator Langerholc, Senator Pat Stefano (R-32), Senator Elder Vogel (R-47), and Senator Michele Brooks (R-50) to:
- Exempt subject vehicles newer than eight years from emissions testing. Senate Bill 742
- Change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement for subject vehicles older than eight years. Senate Bill 743
- Remove Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland Counties from the testing requirement based on empirical evidence cited by the Joint State Government Commission. Senate Bill 744
- Replace the outdated tests in the regions of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for subject vehicles with model year 1992-95 and subject light-duty trucks with model year 1996 or newer. Senate Bill 745
- Extend the date for existing emissions inspection stations to obtain new emissions testing equipment from November 1, 2019, to July 1, 2021. Senate Bill 746
The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. If signed into law, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to prepare a revised State Implementation Plan (SIP) encompassing Senate Bills 742, 743, 744 and 745. The revised SIP would require review and approval by the EPA before the reform measures would take effect, ensuring that Pennsylvania is not in jeopardy of losing any federal highway funding.
The legislation was the result of a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on “Exempting Eligible Counties from Vehicle Emissions Testing” featuring testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), DEP, the Joint State Government Commission, the Pennsylvania AAA Federation, and an inspection mechanic.
In 1990, Congress set the requirement for an I/M program as part of the Clean Air Act amendments. Since then, several changes were implemented by PennDOT and DEP, and the Commonwealth finally became compliant with a federally-approved SIP in 2005. For more information, please visit http://www.drivecleanpa.state.pa.us/.