State lawmakers are seeking to end required emissions testing in Hamilton County and other areas. (Photo: MGNOnline)

After being approved by the state House, a bill that would end mandatory emissions testing for area vehicles is heading to a Senate committee this week.

Members of the state House approved HB 1782 in a 96-0 vote Monday night.

The legislation would affect Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, where emissions tests are required before vehicle registration or renewal.

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Members of the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee were expected to take up the issue Wednesday, according to the Tennessee General Assembly website.

The state Senate must approve the measure before it can be sent to Gov. Bill Haslam.

Currently, testing is done on vehicles with the model year of 1975 and newer if they are powered by a gasoline or diesel engine and weigh up to 10,500 pounds, according to a news release from Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, who is sponsoring the initiative.

The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act required the state of Tennessee to develop more restrictive regulations to control air pollution from mobile sources in counties that were not meeting the federal standards for air quality, according to a news release.

In August, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced that the entire state meets federal air quality health standards, according to a news release.

The idea for the bill came from a conversation that Carter had with a constituent, who expressed frustration about the “burdensome” costs of emissions testing. 

When Carter found out that the state announced that Tennessee is meeting federal air quality standards, it was clear to him that the mandatory testing isn’t needed, he said.

“The idea that we have to choose between clean air and this costly, burdensome practice impacting Tennessee’s working families is a false choice, and I reject it,” he said in a prepared statement. “Vehicle emissions testing has outlived its usefulness … This measure will have a life-changing impact on our working families while also maintaining total air quality.”

He said he looks forward to the passage by the Senate.

“I know it is in great hands with Sen. Bo Watson leading the efforts in order for it to clear its final legislative hurdle,” he also said. 

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, is co-sponsoring Watson’s bill.

Carter’s effort has support from Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, State Rep. Marc Gravitt, R-East Ridge, State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga and State Representative JoAnne Favors, R-Chattanooga.

But the staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the emissions testing is an important protection.

And, the situation may also pose problems for the state’s inspection and maintenance programs, which EPA-approved and federally enforceable. Eliminating the testing would require revisions of those programs and approval by the EPA, the TFP also reported.

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