Senate OK’s emission test changes

Xavier Smith • Jan 27, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The state Senate passed a bill last week that would eliminate emissions tests for new vehicles, but not without discussion from supporters and opponents of the measure.

The bill would create an exemption from vehicle emissions testing requirements for vehicles that are three or less model years old and have less than 36,000 miles at purchase time.

“I don’t think it’s a huge concern when it comes to our atmosphere being polluted by these vehicles,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, noting less than 3 percent of new vehicles fail the emissions testing.

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, elaborated on Beavers’ comments and said the failures aren’t because of poor emissions quality from the vehicles.

“It’s because of an invalid code or something that is triggering the failure. It has absolutely nothing to do with emissions,” Johnson said.

“To my colleagues who represent counties that don’t have to do this, let me tell you, it is a pain in the you-know-what to have to go through this,” he said.

Currently, tests are required in Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties. Johnson said eliminating the requirement for new vehicles would save citizens time, hassle and expense.

Sen. Jeff Yarbo, D-Nashville, pointed to the Volkswagen emissions scandal, in which the company equipped vehicles with software used to cheat emissions tests.

“While it’s generally true that newer cars are more likely to pass the emission standards than others, we do know there have been some real moves in the auto industries, or at least suspicion of moves in the auto industry, to gain their way through this test,” Yarbo said.

Yarbo suggested the state should be careful in doing anything to reduce emissions standards after the scandal.

Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, refuted Yarbo’s statements. “Even if Volkswagens were run in, they still passed the emission test, so that’s really a moot issue,” he said.

The Senate approved the bill by a 29-3 vote. The House Finance, Ways and Means Committee will hear the measure Wednesday.

The change will also require approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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