Emissions testing in Hamilton County will likely continue until 2020
Tennessee legislators passed a bill in April to end mandatory vehicle emissions testing in Hamilton County and five other counties in Tennessee, but testing continues today.
State Senator Bo Watson, (R) Tennessee District 11, who co-sponsored the bill, said he is hopeful after a year to 18 months, emissions testing in Hamilton County will be a thing of the past.
At this time, the next steps of the termination process are now out of his hands. The state law has changed, but federal air quality requirements must still be met by Tennessee, which is why emissions testing continues until a replacement plan is in place.
"The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is now going through the process of coming up with another test, which will meet the standards that the EPA will require," said Watson.
TDEC is currently working with local air pollution control boards to develop other strategies to help keep particulates out of the air, insuring all 95 Tennessee counties stay at clean air attainment.
They will complete a comprehensive plan in the coming months, which will then be submitted to the EPA for approval. Senator Watson says EPA’s review process can then take an additional six months to a year.
"I believe that this present EPA will be somewhat expeditious at looking at the proposal that TDEC gives to them. So again, we are hopeful that within a year, 18 months that we've completely eliminated emissions testing. We are using some other kind of strategy," Watson stated.
The approval from EPA is dependent on federal requirements, so if the new Congress changes air standards, then the process may have to start all over again. Senator Watson said the new Tennessee state legislators will have no impact on the process.
If the EPA approves the plan, emissions testing will end 120 days later. However, another barrier may further delay the end of testing.
"If the state has or the local municipality has a contractual relationship with a testing company, you just can't void that contract. You have to work through that contract," explained Watson.
With all of these factors added together, Watson is optimistic at some point in 2020 it will be resolved, ending vehicle emissions testing.
Watson added that there are a lot of reasons to no longer have car emissions testing, such as cleaner running new cars, public dislike, and local industries and businesses supporting cleaner air practices.