In the early 1990s, five counties, including Wilson, were identified as non-attainment areas, meaning we did not meet the ground level ozone standards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This meant that Wilson County would have to begin emissions testing on certain vehicles.
In April of 1993, Wilson County passed a resolution requesting the State Department of Environment and Conservation develop and implement a vehicle inspection and maintenance program to satisfy the federal requirements of the Clean Air Act. Tennessee complied and began contracting with a private company, Envirotest, to perform emissions testing.
Throughout the years, there have been several changes to legislation involving the way vehicles are tested and determining which vehicles require testing. In 2014, legislation was passed through the state allowing vehicles three years old or newer to be exempt from testing altogether. Following the State of Tennessee’s lead, the Wilson County Commission passed its own resolution to that same effect. This legislation/resolution was sent to the federal government, where it is currently under review.
With the advancement of technology, there is once again new legislation afoot that could eliminate testing for everyone. The State of Tennessee has passed a resolution/law that would eliminate emissions testing in all Tennessee counties. However, that’s a decision that must be made by the federal government as well. Therefore, Tennessee has submitted its intent to the federal government, which has 18 months to respond.
Wilson County does not have to pass a resolution to opt out of emissions testing since the state passed its own resolution. If the federal government responds favorably, then the state will be responsible for terminating the contracts held with the companies that administer the testing. The state holds these contracts, not the counties. Until that happens, Wilson and other counties currently testing will continue to do so until they hear back from the state and federal government.
However, Wilson County is well on its way to eliminating emissions testing altogether, and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto’s office is updating the public on where the process stands. Currently, the following steps in the process have been completed:
- Internal and Local Program Review/Submitting revisions to local programs and EPA
- Editing based on feedback from locals, IAC and EPA
- Public hearing notice and public comment
Public hearings for this legislation were held in Nashville on Nov. 19. The following will now take place:
- Technical Demonstration and rule change revisions based on EPA and public input
- Air Board Adoption vote to Eliminate I/ M
- Submission to EPA
The EPA review process will then take up to 18 months to complete according to the statute. The EPA will then act on the submission if deemed complete and will publish the final action. Once the final action has been published in the Federal Register, the program will end 120 days after approval.
In the meantime, Wilson County must continue to perform emissions testing. Hutto’s office said Wilson County Government is working diligently to stay informed on this process and will continue to update both Commissioners and the public on the next steps in this process as they become available.