Emissions inspections could end in some counties if Ford gets bill passed

Published 2:12 pm Monday, April 10, 2023

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By Charlie Drape, Salisbury Post

RALEIGH — Sen. Carl Ford, who represents Rowan and Stanly counties, has sponsored a bill that would eliminate the required annual vehicle emissions inspections.

Ford’s bill, Senate Bill 341, would end those inspections for 18 of 19 counties, with Mecklenburg County continuing the requirement because it continues to register high ozone pollution readings.

“We want to do away with the emission inspections because a lot of counties already have years ago. At one time they told us that Rowan would never be able to drop it because we’re on I-85 and close to Charlotte,” Ford said.

But the county has met air quality standards for years, Ford said, while also mentioning how most counties only have one air quality monitoring station, if they have one at all.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, “a North Carolina emissions inspection consists of connecting a certified analyzer to the vehicle’s OBDII (on-board diagnostics) system to verify that all vehicle emissions components/systems are working per the manufacturer specifications along with a visual safety/tamper inspection.”

North Carolina is one of at least 30 states that require some sort of vehicle emissions inspection. Another reason to do away with emissions tests, according to Ford, is “because the cars are getting better and a bunch of people are going to electric vehicles.”

The bill also would change the required yearly safety inspections for those with a car older than three years to every other year.

“With the safety inspection, why does a brand new car need to be inspected?…We’re trying to move the safety inspection to every other year. Now some people are going full on nuts about that, (but) there’s already some states that don’t worry about that,” Ford said.

The maximum annual cost for a vehicle emissions and safety test is $30. Inspection stations receive most of the total fee, $23.75, with the remaining $6.25 going to various related state programs, including oversight for emissions inspections, the highway trust fund, air quality and emergency and rescue squads.

In 2018, yearly emissions tests were removed in 26 counties in North Carolina after the General Assembly approved the passing of Senate Bill 131, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017. The current bill is making its way through the Senate. If passed there, it will move to the House for debate and a vote.