End of Testing
Davidson County Vehicle Emission Testing Program Ends February 5.
Effective February 5, Bellevue motorists will no longer be required to have their vehicle’s emissions tested as a prerequisite to obtaining new license tags.
“Beginning February 5th, registration renewal applications received by the Davidson County Clerk will not require proof of emissions testing,” said 35th District Council Representative Dave Rosenberg.
The action to end emission testing in Davidson County taken by Metro Council ends a program in existence for nearly 40 years. Rosenberg was a co-sponsor of the resolution that was presented and approved at the Council meeting earlier this month.
Rosenberg, along with his council colleagues, believed the time for emissions testing in the county had run its course and that ending the requirement would not have a negative impact on air quality standards.
“It was time for emissions testing to end,” said Rosenberg. “As cars have gotten cleaner the impact of emissions testing has lessened significantly over time. Most vehicle miles in Davidson County are driven by owners not subject to emissions testing (vehicles driven by motorists residing outside of Davidson County). Further, a lot of Nashvillians couldn’t afford to make non-emissions-related repairs to their cars in order to pass.”
Metro Public Health Department officials are counting on Davidson County vehicle owners to keep their cars and trucks in good operating shape going forward. The department has managed the emissions testing program since it started.
“There is no roadside testing in place,” said Brian Todd, spokesperson for MPHD. “There will be no vendors to take those tests.”
Todd stood by earlier concerns he expressed late last year when discussions of ending the testing requirement first surfaced.
“MPHD believes any changes in the vehicle emissions program should be made in full awareness of the consequences of non-attainment with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which can be economically very harmful,” he said last month.
The state originally used the program to improve and meet federal air quality standards under the Clean Air Act, and the testing targeted polluted cities including Nashville. Over time, vehicles have been re-designed by manufacturers to reduce the emission of harmful pollutants.
Nashville ranked as the 387th most polluted city in the United States (compared to over 1500 cities) in 2019, thus falling within the top 25 percent of most polluted U.S. cities according to IQAir, an organization that provides ongoing air pollution readings on a global scale. Nashville is the seventh most polluted city in Tennessee according to the organization, which serves as a technology partner to the United Nations Environmental Program.
The Davidson County Clerk’s website indicated that vehicle owners whose license tags expire this month must still engage in the emissions testing process to renew their car or truck’s tags. Supporters of the change said the program has been inefficient due to long lines and staffing shortages at testing sites.
Prior to the vote, Hugh Atkins, who oversees the program, acknowledged that vehicle testing no longer removes as many toxic fumes as it did back in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s not as critical as it once was, certainly,” said Atkins, the Bureau Director for Environmental Health Services for Metro Public Health.
However, Atkins still believes it served a purpose.
“It is dependent on people maintaining their cars the way they’re supposed to and emissions capability working the way it’s supposed to and that’s one of the things you got from emissions testing,” he said.
Todd said the health department constantly monitors Nashville’s air quality.
“We have air monitor stations in all areas of Nashville as part of our air program’s responsibilities to the EPA,” said Todd. “The air monitoring that our department conducts will continue.
This story, written by Marc Lyon, appeared originally in the January 19, 2022 edition of THE VUE newspaper. Mike Hastings, Publisher.