Harrisburg – A package of bills was approved today by the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator Kim Ward (R-39), reforming Pennsylvania’s vehicle emissions testing program, also referred to as the Vehicle Emissions Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) program.
Pennsylvania’s federally-sanctioned I/M program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions testing for 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.)
The reform measures would remove counties meeting or exceeding air quality standards from the testing requirement, change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement, and exempt newer vehicles, 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.
“We took extraordinary action today signaling reform is needed to Pennsylvania’s outdated and onerous vehicle emissions testing program,” Senator Ward said. “Between 2011-2017, only 4 percent of all subject vehicles failed the emissions test, which is attributed to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles on our roads. When we are meeting or exceeding federal air quality standards and vehicles are not failing the emissions testing, we must modernize this program to relieve the burden on our constituents.”
“Today’s committee votes on these vital bills are the 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. “This is the first step in the legislative process and we will continue to fight for the people of western Pennsylvania who have been saddled with this onerous requirement for far too long.”
The package of bills that cleared the first legislative hurdle was introduced by Senator Kim Ward, Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35), Senator Pat Stefano (R-32), Senator Elder Vogel (R-47), and Senator Michele Brooks (R-50) to:
- Exempt vehicles newer than eight years from emissions testing. Senate Bill 742
- Change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement. 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 tailpipe test in the Pittsburgh region and the two-speed idle test in the Philadelphia region with a gas cap test and a visual inspection for model year 1994-95 vehicles. Senate Bill 745
- Extend the date for emissions inspection stations to obtain new emissions testing equipment from November 1, 2019, to July 1, 2021. Senate Bill 746
If passed by the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 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 danger 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, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 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, the Commonwealth implemented several changes, including the addition of counties beyond the regions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. For more information, please visit http://www.drivecleanpa.state.pa.us/.