3:13 pm - Saturday December 18, 6658

Changes on the way for Front Range’s Auto Emissions Program

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on Thursday approved changes to the gasoline vehicle inspection and maintenance program that are estimated to save motorists between $2 million and $8 million annually. These changes will improve customer convenience and save motorists money without losing any of the important air quality benefits.

The program, operated along much of the Front Range, requires most vehicles to pass a biennial emissions test prior to registration renewal. The program helps reduce harmful ground-level ozone concentrations along the Front Range by eliminating 25 tons per day of ozone-forming pollutants. In addition to lowering ozone, the program also reduces emissions of numerous air toxics and carcinogens, including benzene.

The commission’s action today increases the model year exemption for newly-manufactured vehicles from four to seven years beginning in 2015, meaning most new vehicles will not need any type of emissions inspection for the first seven years. This is the longest exemption period of any similar emissions program in the country.

“We are pleased to have worked with the commission on the development and adoption of these changes,” said Will Allison, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division. “We continually evaluate the vehicle inspection program so that improvements can be made that balance customer convenience and air quality benefits. These changes will do just that.”

Other changes adopted by the commission include the use of on-board diagnostics testing for the two inspection cycles following the expiration of the model year exemption and the elimination of the visual inspection as part of the overall procedure for 1996-and-newer vehicles.

Vehicles manufactured since the mid-1990s are equipped with on-board diagnostics, which refers to the self-diagnostic and reporting capability of the vehicle’s onboard computer. Trained technicians can plug vehicles into a testing computer to check for trouble codes related to emissions. With this change, most vehicles will not need to submit to the well-known treadmill-style test at one of the area’s Air Care Colorado testing facilities for the first 11 years.

The changes are scheduled to take effect in 2015 to allow time for the required legislative and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approvals. The Colorado Department of Revenue also will need to make significant alterations to the vehicle registration system to accommodate the changes.

The current program, begun in 1995 in the Denver-metropolitan area and expanded in 2010 to include parts of Larimer and Weld counties, requires vehicles to be inspected biennially (older vehicles are inspected annually). The program has been modified regularly through the years with changes designed to improve customer convenience while retaining air quality benefits.

The increase in the model-year exemption is perhaps the most significant change since the introduction of the “Rapid Screen” component in 2003, which annually allows tens of thousands of exceptionally clean vehicles identified by roadside equipment to skip the inspection at a testing facility.

The department jointly oversees the program with the Colorado Department of Revenue.

For details regarding the changes, go to http://1.usa.gov/TYOEd0 and click on the “Hot Topics” link.

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