Northwest NEWS

December 13, 1999

Home & Garden

Emission check changes start Jan. 4

   Fewer motor vehicles will need to have their emissions checked starting next month, under changes being implemented by the Washington Department of Ecology.

   Legislation passed in 1998 exempts vehicles less than five and more than 25 model-years old from having emission inspections, starting in 2000. Until then, the program applies to 1968-and-newer gasoline and diesel vehicles. Department of Ecology (ecology) statistics show that newer vehicles rarely violate emissions standards, while older ones often cannot be repaired at a reasonable cost.

   Urban parts of Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties have the emission-check program. In 2000, 1976 through 1996 vehicles will need inspections. (Parts of Clark County already have this exemption under a pilot program.) Vehicles manufactured in even-numbered years are tested in even years; odd-model-year vehicles get their tests in odd years.

   While the new exemption will reduce the number of vehicles being tested, many of the fixed cost of the privately-run testing facilities remain. Under a contract extension between Ecology and Envirotest Systems, Inc., which owns and operates emission check stations, some operating costs will be trimmed by reducing business hours from 52 hours a week down to 40. The new Emission Check station hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 9am-5pm.

   The current $12 inspection will increase to $15 on Dec. 31, 1999. By state law, the emission-check program must be funded solely through the inspection fee. Even at the higher rate, Washington will have the nation's lowest emission-test fee.