A report release by NCDENR on Thursday studies whether the 48 North Carolina counties that are currently requiring emissions testing needs to continue checking vehicles as an effort to meet current and proposed federal ozone standards. Together, cars and trucks are the main source of emissions leading to depletion of the ozone layer in the state.
DENR secretary Donald R. van der Vaart said in the release, “North Carolina’s air quality has improved significantly since emissions testing requirements were expanded for motor vehicles in the early 2000s. We studied the air quality improvements for this report and concluded that we could eliminate emissions testing for motor vehicles in numerous counties without harming air quality or violating federal standards.”
If legislature agrees to the action, New Hanover and Brunswick are among the counties that would drop vehicle emissions testing. Pender County, along with many rural counties in eastern North Carolina, generates low levels of vehicle emission which makes them already exempted from the testing.
According to Tom Mather, spokesman for DENR’s Division of Air Quality, the number of counties that can eliminate emissions testing depends on new EPA standards, expected to be set by October. Mather said on Thursday that the federal agency’s current standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb), and the proposed standard is lowered to a level in the 65 to 70 ppb range.
DENR recommends for elimination of testing in 27 counties, which includes Brunswick, New Hanover and other several coastal counties, if EPA would lower the standard at 65 ppb. If the standard is to be set at 70 ppb, another 4 more counties, located in central North Carolina would be eligible to drop testing.
Since EPA adoption of its original ozone standards, it has imposed a more stringent emission control for cars and trucks, which leads to cleaner vehicles on the roads.
Mather said, “As old cars and trucks are replaced, the fleet gets progressively cleaner.”
North Carolina will continue to require annual safety inspections of vehicles in the state, Mather emphasized.