Washington State Will End Vehicle Emissions Checks in 2020

January 30, 2019 Updated: January 30, 2019

Car owners in Washington state will no longer be required to do emissions tests to renew their vehicle registrations, as the legislation requiring the tests will be expiring and air pollution is believed to have improved.

After having been in effect for 38 years, the emissions check program will be phased out as of Jan. 1 2020, according to a statement from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

But vehicles scheduled for testing in 2019 still need an emissions test before they can renew their tabs.

“Air quality in Washington is much cleaner than when the program began in 1982,” the department said in the statement, and “every community in our state currently meets all federal air quality standards.”

“The combination of the testing program, advances in vehicle technology, and improved motor fuels have led to significant reductions in transportation-related air pollution,” the statement continued.

California Can Set Its Own Emission Standards, Court Rules
Alex Gromov puts a probe into the tailpipe of a car as he performs a smog check at Marinwood Smog Check in San Rafael, California on December 12, 2007. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In 1982, Washington state initiated the emissions check program to require vehicles registered in certain emission contributing areas to go through a test to make sure the car was not emitting excess air pollution.

In 2005, Washington’s Legislature passed a plan to phase out the testing based on the projection that it would no longer be needed by 2020.

Currently, five of the 39 counties in Washington state have inspection requirements regarding car emissions, including Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane.

Andy Wineke, a spokesperson with the department, told King 5 News, an NBC-affiliated television station in Seattle, that the program has become a “shrinking pool.”

In 2018, about 750,000 vehicles in the state were required to do the smog check, dropping down from 1.2 million a few years ago, reported King 5 News.

In addition, in 2018, about 13 percent of vehicles requiring smog check failed the first time, and the rate dropped to about 4 percent when it came to a second test.

While Washington drivers celebrated the news, test stations are scheduled to shut down, and the department also plans to cut jobs. However, the number of impacted employees is still unknown.

As of now, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming are also among the states that don’t require statewide emissions inspections, according to AAA’s website.

Fiat Chrysler to Pay $800 Million for Fake Emissions Tests

In related news, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) NV agreed to pay about $800 million in settlement expenses, after the U.S. government discovered the American carmaker had used technology to produce fake results on diesel emissions tests.

The settlement included $311 million in total civil penalties to the United States and California regulators, up to $280 million for FCA diesel vehicle owners, and extended warranties worth $105 million.

The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) confirmed 104,000 FCA vehicles are affected, specifically Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel models built between the years 2014 and 2016.

Fiat Chrysler agreed to an enhanced a whistleblower program, and the company must also implement corporate governance, organization, and technical process reforms to minimize the chance of future violations. The company also must hire a compliance auditor to oversee and assess the reforms.

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