The Lead

‘It’s time to end this outdated test’: Pa. Senate votes to exempt newer vehicles from emissions inspection

By: - October 19, 2021 4:42 pm

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, speaks during a September hearing on electric vehicles and possible reform. (Screenshot)

An annual emissions test currently conducted in 25 Pennsylvania counties could become temporarily irrelevant for drivers with a car less than five years old.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 29-20 on Tuesday to pass legislation sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, exempting newer cars from complying with the Vehicle Emissions Inspection and Maintenance program, which only occurs in 25 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“The emissions test has become less effective at reducing air pollution, particularly due to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles entering the fleet,” Langerholc said on the Senate floor.

The annual inspection was rolled out in 2014 and approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2015. But Langerholc, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, called the test “onerous” for drivers who continue to pass the test but are “forced” to pay for the inspection. He added that more than 21 million newer cars passed the emissions test 99 percent of the time between 2010 and 2019.

An estimated 2.1 million vehicle owners qualify for the exemption, according to the legislation’s fiscal note. Those drivers would not have to pay for the test, which ranges between $30-40.

“It’s time to end this outdated test — period,” he said.

Sen. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia, cautioned against a vote in favor of the bill. Though drafted with “good intentions,” Pennsylvania could lose federal funding if the bill becomes law, he added, calling it a “Pandora’s box” the Legislature “may live to regret.”

Defending her vote in favor of the legislation, Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, said the bill gives drivers an incentive to purchase “newer, cleaner, fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles.”

“All this bill does is say of those 25 counties that are required to do emissions testing while 42 don’t, that if you purchase a new vehicle, you don’t have to go through emissions testing in five years,” she said. “So if you own the car longer than five years, you’re still going to have to go through that emissions testing wherein 42 counties, you don’t have to go through anything.”

With approval from the Senate, the proposal now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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