Air Pollution:

Delays in Motor Vehicle Inspection Programs Jeopardize Attainment of the Ozone Standard

RCED-98-175: Published: Jun 15, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1998.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of states' motor vehicle inspection programs, focusing on the: (1) progress made by the 23 states that are required to implement enhanced inspection and maintenance (I&M) programs, including the difficulties that the states have encountered; and (2) impact that delays in implementing enhanced I&M programs may have on the states' ability to comply with the national air quality standard for ozone.

GAO noted that: (1) two of the 23 states had begun testing vehicles by the January 1995 deadline that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set for implementing enhanced I&M programs, and 12 had begun testing vehicles as of April 1998; (2) a number of factors have contributed to delays in implementing programs; (3) opposition to EPA's enhanced I&M regulation--including the reluctance of some state legislatures to provide the legislative authority and funding needed to implement these programs--caused most of the 23 states to delay implementation; (4) in addition, the states had difficulty in obtaining new testing equipment and software support from vendors; (5) the delays in implementing enhanced I&M programs have jeopardized the states' ability to meet the deadlines for attaining the national ozone standard; (6) EPA has allowed the states to claim credit for future reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from their enhanced I&M programs, provided they demonstrate that they will achieve the required reductions as soon as practical after November 1996; (7) if states cannot demonstrate that reductions in VOC can be obtained from the mandatory enhanced inspection and maintenance programs, they may have to look to other mobile sources as well as stationary sources to meet their goals for reducing these emissions; and (8) however, achieving further reductions from other sources will be costly and take longer than achieving the reductions from enhanced inspection I&M programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA's Office of Mobile Sources is tracking information on successful practices and using an informal process to share that information with states that are developing and implementing I/M programs. The Office of Mobile Sources participates in numerous regularly scheduled meetings where EPA officials update stakeholders on the latest changes in I/M and provide guidance on successful practices. Annual conferences, impromptu meetings and conference calls are also used to provide information and guidance on successful practices. In some cases, where successful practices have been demonstrated, OMS has translated them into various forms or guidance documents which states have implemented. For example, based on information EPA compiled on best practices, OMS developed guidance on clean screening that states are using to target the portion of their vehicle fleet that can be exempted from I/M testing.

    Recommendation: In view of the pivotal role that enhanced I&M programs play in reducing VOC emissions and the delays experienced to date in implementing these programs, as well as the possibility of future delays, the Administrator, EPA, should compile information on the more successful practices, such as public relations campaigns, used by the states that have implemented their enhanced I&M programs and share the information with those states that are in the early stages of developing and implementing their programs.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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