With nearly all cars passing the state emissions test, one Pennsylvania lawmaker thinks it's time to eliminate the test for newer vehicles.
State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, is pushing a bill that would largely cut the emissions inspection program in the 25 participating counties statewide, including York.
Passenger vehicles produced in the last decade wouldn't need an emissions inspection under his proposal, nor would any hybrid or electric car. The program, which started in 1997 as a way to reduce pollution, is outdated now that most new cars have low or no emissions, said Wozniak's spokesman, J.P. Kurish.
PennDOT estimates 98 percent of vehicles pass the emissions test, not counting broken or loose gas cap problems.
"When they first passed the emissions law, there were a lot of old and dirty cars on the road," Kurish said.
Kurish said PennDOT estimates about 1 million emissions inspections are done per
year, although he believes the estimate is low. The cost for inspection is about $40-$45 in York.
Local reaction: "As we get the older cars off the road, there becomes less of a need for that," said state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus. "It's worth evaluating."
Pennsylvania doesn't get that revenue, Kurish pointed out, so the state wouldn't be losing out on money if the program was reduced. It's about saving Pennsylvania drivers $25 million-$30 million a year.
"I don't think you put mandates on drivers just to create revenues for businesses," Kurish said. "Auto mechanics and car dealers will do fine."
Christian Maldonado, the Jiffy Lube manager on Loucks Road in York, said his business just started doing emissions inspections in recent months.
It was a way to get extra revenue, considering the latest vehicle maintenance standards spread routine maintenance further and further apart, he said.
Emissions revenue is needed "now more than ever" for shops like his that don't do major repair work.
The Lube Center, also on Loucks Road, gets anywhere from four to five emissions inspections on a slow day to 10-20 on busy days at the start of or end of the month. An emissions inspector is on the clock every day.
Manager David Bruce said the Maryland-based chain doesn't rely on emissions inspection revenue, since Maryland doesn't have the same inspections. But it does help.
And drivers who are unaware their emissions systems aren't working properly could get bad fuel economy or other problems, he added.
Approval needed: The other concern is on the environmental end, as Wozniak is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find some middle ground.
Pennsylvania started its emissions program to meet EPA air quality guidelines, so the EPA would need to sign off on any changes.
As part of the program, 25 counties statewide in areas with higher pollution are participating.
Arleen Shulman, the DEP chief of air resource management, said drivers don't always have incentive to fix emissions problems without the state mandate if their vehicle performance isn't affected.
That means driving around with a car that could put out many times more volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide than designed, leading to ozone pollution and more.
"The emissions test is the one program that helps reduce pollution for the vehicles that are on the road," Shulman said.
Pollution can lead to bronchitis, asthma issues, scarred lung tissue and other health problems, she added. And their most recent study of the York and Adams county areas showed highway vehicles account for one-fourth of all ozone emissions.
"It's still high," she said. "We have to continue to be vigilant."
The DEP and PennDOT are doing a study of the emissions inspection program, and the results, which won't be ready for a few months, could impact Wozniak's bill.
Kurish said Wozniak is willing to work with the departments as they find a good balance of frequency of testing, age of cars and emissions standards.
The bill recently cleared the Senate transportation committee and is now in the appropriations committee.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdis patch.com