Auto emission testing changes under consideration

Mar 11, 2011

For most drivers in Washington’s most-populated areas, getting your car’s emissions system tested is an every-other-year ritual. Now, state environment officials are proposing to make changes they say will streamline the process without compromising the region’s air quality.

Car owners have to get their vehicle tested if it’s between 5 and 25 years old.

John Raymond, with the state Department of Ecology, says as more cars feature onboard diagnostic computers, it becomes less cost-effective to do certain tailpipe tests on older, more-polluting cars.

The vehicles that will be getting a tailpipe test are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the population, so we’re kind of de-emphasizing some of these things that are not as important as they used to be.

Another proposed change could lead to more testing stations. Currently, there’s one state-approved contractor who does the tests. The new proposal would allow repair shops and others to get into the emissions-testing business.

Other proposed changes:

  • Light-duty diesel trucks will be exempted
  • Standards for heavy-duty diesel vehicles will be tightened
  • Heavy duty diesel vehicles will be exempted if they meet 2007 EPA emissions standards or are retrofitted with a particle filter

The clock is ticking down on the emissions testing program. Cars built from 2009 on meet new clean air standards and never need to be tested. It’s expected that eventually there’ll be so few cars older than that on the road that the testing system will phase out by 2020.

You can comment on the proposed changes through the end of March. Ecology will hold a public meeting in Federal Way on March 22. Can't make the meeting? You can also watch streaming video of the event. A link will be posted here by March 15.