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Is There Room for National Vehicle Emissions Testing?Posted 8/8/2007
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.
The focus on climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress has been increasing at a tremendous rate. With multiple committees in the House of Representatives seeking jurisdiction of the issue and at least five bills related to global warming introduced in the U.S. Senate, much attention to the issue is in play. But to date, bringing all of these ideas into a common package for House and Senate approval has not occurred. Compounding the organizational problem is that energy legislation is being considered in the House and Senate. Some of the issues directly related to global warming have tempted those members interested in these issues to address some climate change items now in the energy debate, not later.
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) has been active in the area of periodic motor vehicle emissions testing for many years. ASA has been a strong advocate for emissions testing. The 1990s emission-testing deliberations were dominated by centralized versus decentralized testing issues. In the last few years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has relaxed its support for existing state emissions programs and provided little leadership in expanding new programs in states.
What has become painfully apparent in the recent energy legislation debate in the U.S. Congress is that the reforms necessary to stem global warming have huge economic costs. This will certainly delay implementation of climate change policy reforms. A look at the length of time Congress has taken on other major environmental legislation indicates that it could be years before any aggressive measures are implemented.
The House energy bill was supposed to be completed prior to the August congressional break. Yet, there is still no agreement as to whether there will be an omnibus energy package or multiple bills that move independent of each other. The reality that more than one committee - Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, Ways and Means, and Agriculture - has jurisdiction over this issue only complicates matters further.
The House has yet to agree over new standards for fuel efficiency.
In the Senate, the following bills have been introduced to stem global warming:
Although emissions from individual vehicles are relatively low if compared to industrial sources, municipalities contend that the automobile is the single greatest polluter. Despite engine and fuel advances, vehicle testing should still be a public policy consideration. Hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, according to the EPA, are all exhaust pollutants. The EPA acquired its authority to regulate motor vehicle pollution in the Clean Air Act of 1970. In the '70s, most of the emissions reductions came through advances in engine design and other technology improvements.
In 1975, the addition of catalytic converters reduced hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. In 1980-81, vehicle manufacturers began using even more advanced emissions control systems. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments included tighter tailpipe standards, increased durability, improved evaporative emissions and computerized diagnostic systems that identify malfunctioning emission controls according to the EPA. The EPA also notes that future targets for emissions programs will be hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide reductions.
ASA has met with the EPA about expanding vehicle emissions testing programs. The case can be made that as suburban areas grow, commuters without emissions checks are motoring to nonattainment areas and harming the environment as much as those that reside in the nonattainment area.
ASA supports a thorough debate regarding national emissions testing during the climate change legislative process. One of the top issues for the next administration in 2009 will be climate change and how to address it through public policy.
To review legislation related to climate change, please go to ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com.
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