6 - 2012

Keeping Up To Date On Car Emissions Laws

photo by Simone Ramella

The following is a guest post by Elaine Hirsch.

Keeping up to date on your state’s car emission laws may become more of a challenge in coming years. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted the first level of automotive emission laws in 1990, which took effect in 1996. By enacting the law, the EPA made it illegal for cars to exceed a certain level of emissions, making it a matter of criminology. This first level, Tier 1, required passenger cars to comply with emission standards to reduce air pollution in the US. Emission standards limit the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases that vehicles are legally allowed to release into the environment from their exhaust systems.
Tier 2 of the national automotive emissions law was phased in between 2004 and 2009. Tier 2 included trucks, SUVs and other larger vehicles in the law, requiring that larger vehicles also comply with the emission standards. A provision of the national emissions law indicated that the state of California was allowed to enact more strict regulations, in part due to the state’s issues with smog and air pollution. The state of California adopted a more stringent set of regulations referred to as the California Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards. These tighter standards were formally enacted in 2005. Individual states may now elect to adopt California’s more stringent standards over the national emissions standards and require residents to make sure their vehicles comply with these standards.

Each year, when a vehicle is inspected, the automobile’s emissions are tested. There are many ways a vehicle would not pass an emissions test. For example, the muffler or catalytic converter may need to be replaced. If this is the case, the repairs must be completed in order to pass inspection and make sure the vehicle is roadworthy.

Since the implementation of the stricter California emission laws, several other states have followed suit and adopted similar standards. One way to keep up to date on your state’s emission laws is to stay informed on whether the state in which you reside has adopted the California Low Emission Vehicle standards. If so, your vehicle will be required to comply with these standards, and before your car passes its yearly inspection, you may be required to perform maintenance and repairs to get the vehicle into compliance.

As of 2012, several states have already adopted the tighter California emissions laws. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington State, Maryland, Florida, Illinois or the District of Columbia, your state abides by the tighter California emissions laws. More states are expected to adopt the tighter standards in the near future.

Be sure to pay attention to the state and local news when state emissions standards are being discussed to stay informed about your state laws. After all, it is better to know in advance if your car will be subjected to tighter standards when your next inspection appointment rolls around.

If your vehicle does not pass an emissions inspection, the testing station will provide you with a checklist of items that must be addressed. Promptly make the repairs or perform the necessary maintenance and have the car retested. In some cases, the repairs will be minimal. For example, a tight-fitting gas cap may be needed. In other cases, the car may require some rather expensive work to get it in shape to pass inspection. Regardless, the inspection station will advise you about exactly what you need to do in order for your car to pass the emissions test.

Emissions testing helps cut down on greenhouse gases and provides cleaner air to breathe. Though tighter emission standards may require more attention and work on the part of vehicle owners, the extra effort pays off by making sure we are taking the necessary steps to protect the Earth’s environment.

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