Washington soon to end vehicle emission testing
It's unusual for Oregon and Washington to disagree on politics — especially when it comes to the environment — but the states are going different directions when it comes to monitoring how much pollution comes from cars. The State of Washington is on the verge of ending its vehicle emissions testing program, while Oregon remains fully committed.
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Washington drivers will no longer have to take their cars to vehicle emissions testing centers and pay the $15 fee. The Washington Legislature decided to let the program die.
The easy answer is cars are a lot cleaner than they used to be.
"We've had this in the works for about 15 years," said Andrew Wineke with the Washington State Department of Ecology's air quality program.
In Washington's view, there are fewer and fewer cars still on the road that need to be tested, making the program inefficient.
Meanwhile, Oregon has no plans to follow Washington's lead.
"We are not ready to wind it down, I think it continues to be effective for us to reduce air pollution," Ali Mirzakhalini with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said.
The DEQ said the owners of one in every five cars have some kind of repair done before trying to pass the test. They said Oregon gets a 20 percent reduction in air pollution largely because Oregon tests much older cars than Washington.
Oregon tests cars from 1975 to 2016 while Washington tests cars made between 1993 and 2008.
"I don't pass judgment on Washington," Mirzakhalili said. "We look at Oregon's program. I'm proud of Oregon's program. I think what we're doing is necessary and effective."
Vehicles are still the number one polluter in Washington. "It's the biggest source of pollution in the state and the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, so what we've done is updated our regulations for new cars, requiring them to reduce emissions through 2025," Wineke said.
Oregon has the same tougher new car emissions standards, but the DEQ said there isn't any talk in the Oregon Legislature about going down Washington's no-testing path. DEQ said cars account for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and over 50 percent of the pollution that forms smog, which is a human health hazard.
"It's not that we don't care and don't have the same goals, it's just that we're on different paths at this time," Wineke said.
If you live in Washington and your car is scheduled for smog inspection before the law changes on New Year's Day, you still need to get it done.
You can't get your tags renewed without passing the test. In Oregon, DEQ is proposing to raise the $21 fee to $25 in July.
KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their story here.
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