Annual vehicle emissions testing to end in Surry

By Tom Joyce -

Getting a vehicle inspected in Surry County will soon cost less, due to emissions testing no longer being mandated.

Surry is among 26 counties that have been certified for removal from the emissions requirement of the state’s inspection and maintenance program by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, that agency announced Friday. The change goes into effect on Dec. 1.

Also on the list are Stokes, Wilkes, Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Craven, Edgecombe, Granville, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, Orange, Pitt, Robeson, Rutherford, Stanly, Wayne and Wilson counties.

The emissions-test requirement is to remain in effect in 22 counties in North Carolina, including more-populous ones such as Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake.

Vehicle safety inspections will still be required for registration renewal in all 100 counties — but motorists will find the inspection cost significantly less in Surry and others where the emissions component is being dropped.

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Vehicles plans to implement the changes through licensed emissions inspection sites in the 26 counties covered.

Inspection stations now charge $30 for the complete test, which includes $16.40 for the emissions inspection and $13.60 for the standard safety check of items such as headlights and signal lights.

Effective Dec. 1, an inspection will cost only $13.60 in Surry, a decrease of 55 percent.

The change also will lessen the time required for inspecting a vehicle.

Cleaner air the catalyst

Along with the break in store for vehicle owners’ pocketbooks, another positive aspect surrounds the end of the emissions-testing requirement — the fact it is resulting from cleaner air.

Emissions monitoring was first implemented to determine the level of pollutants discharged from the exhaust of a motor vehicle, with repairs required for autos failing the test.

It involves an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) procedure for model year 1996 or newer vehicles whereby data is downloaded from a car’s on-board computer to check for emissions equipment malfunctions.

After being implemented for years in nearly half of the state’s counties, there was reason to believe the requirement had largely achieved its goal, according to Sharon Martin, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

“It actually started with the state (Legislature),” Martin explained Friday in detailing what sparked the upcoming phase-out of emissions testing in the 26 counties that are rural in nature.

“There was legislative action requesting the Division of Air Quality to do a study,” she said in detailing a process that started more than four years ago. This led to a recommendation for the change.

The Division of Air Quality determined that ending emissions inspections in the 26 counties would not interfere with the attainment status or maintenance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality certified the removal of the counties after receiving final approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For those concerned about environmental harm arising from the change, Martin said Friday there is nothing to worry about.

“This action won’t negatively impact air quality because we’ve reached a point in North Carolina where air quality is in great shape,” she said.

Sheila Holman, assistant state secretary for the environment, says “strides” have been made in this regard.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.