Pa. Senate passes bills to change emissions testing in Westmoreland, statewide
A slate of bills passed this week by the state Senate could bring sweeping changes to vehicle emissions test requirements in Pennsylvania.
The five-bill package would exempt vehicles less than eight years old and eliminate seven counties — including Westmoreland — from the emissions program.
Drivers with older vehicles in nonexempt counties would need inspections only once every two years, instead of annually.
“These are commonsense bills for consumers; they just are,” said state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee.
Emissions tests are required in 25 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, based on population and proximity to major metro areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Ward and state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland, spearheaded efforts to change emissions laws.
The changes have a long way to go before they’re finalized.
First, the bills need to pass the House, then the state Department of Environment Protection needs to send a revised emissions plan to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has final say.
DEP officials warned lawmakers at a public hearing in Unity last month that the EPA would likely reject the proposed changes.
Ward said she believes otherwise and points to examples from other states. Many, including California, have exemptions for newer vehiclesl North Carolina recently removed counties from its emissions testing program with EPA approval, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.
“I believe that if we get this out of the House, it will happen,” Ward said.
Pennsylvania is under particularly strict scrutiny because it is part of a designated “Ozone Transport Region” — a group of northeastern states with heavy vehicle traffic and pollution.
Ward said the state’s emissions requirements are based on standards set in the 1990s and are long due for an update. They’re costing residents money, she said — about $40 per inspection.
“It’s just willy-nilly,” she said. “There’s about 5.7 million emissions tests done in Pennsylvania every year. This needs to be reevaluated.”
In 1996, highway vehicles in Pennsylvania were responsible for about 3.9 million tons of air pollution, mostly carbon monoxide, according to data from the EPA. In 2017, that number was five times lower — down to 764,000 tons.
Here’s a summary of the five bills passed by the Senate:
• Bill 742 exempts vehicles less than 8 years old from emission testing requirements. It passed 26-24.
• Bill 743 requires emissions tests every two years, instead of annually. It passed 27-23.
• Bill 744 exempts Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland counties from the testing requirements. It passed 27-23.
• Bill 745 changes testing standards for a few types of vehicles for which existing testing equipment is obsolete. It passed 27-23.
• Senate Bill 746 extends the deadlines for mechanics’ shops to buy new emissions testing equipment from 2019 to 2021. It passed 33-17.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .