NC bill could end car emission tests and require safety inspections every other year

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 8:36 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Emissions testing could be a thing of the past in North Carolina if a new Senate bill passes.

In North Carolina, 19 out of the 100 counties still require yearly car emission tests. Bill 341 was filed at the end of March to end emissions tests in the remaining counties, besides Mecklenburg County.

The bill is proposing to drop the emissions tests stating that the air quality has improved and is now meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

Car inspections still will be required, just not as often. What once happened yearly will be required every other year, if the bill passes.

If Bill 341 passes, the new regulations would be:

  • Emission test only for Mecklenburg County
  • Safety inspections are required every other year
  • Cars 10 years older than the current model year need to be inspected in 2024, then every other year after
  • No safety check is needed for cars less than three years old.

While not having the test would save us money at the auto shop, one owner is worried that not getting your car inspected as frequently can turn into a hazard.

“If vehicles do start to malfunction or are not running as efficiently and if we’re not catching that with your yearly emissions inspections, then those vehicles can just pollute if that owner decides not to fix it,” said Kenny Pierce, owner of Grease Monkey.

A popular question is how did this test come about? In 1970, the Clean Air Act was established to regulate the standards of emission levels. It’s estimated that 40% of Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution, which can lead to certain cancers and respiratory illnesses.

Emissions from vehicles are a primary source of air pollution.

Last November, three North Carolina counties were removed from testing because their air quality met the federal standards. Now, if this bill passes, almost the whole state would be free from emission testing.

People tend to put off their car alerts, but Pierce points out what to look for in your car when it’s time to bring it in.

“All the emission systems will trigger a check engine light,” he said. “So, if there’s a failure of a system that’s important for the pollution of your vehicle, that will trigger a check engine light or a vehicle malfunction light to go off. With that light and depending on what those lights are and what the code is, it indicates if that car is polluting more or not.”

If the bill passes, it wouldn’t take effect immediately. The North Carolina Environmental Protection Agency would have the final approval of the amendment.

To read more about Senate Bill 341, you can find the proposed bill here and a summary of the bill here.