Wednesday, January 11, 2012

EPA Gives Anchorage Permission To End IM Emissions Testing Program Effective February 9th, 2012

On January 10th, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency completed its review of the Anchorage Assembly's decision in May 2010 to end the the IM (Inspection & Maintenance) emissions testing program for motor vehicles, saving consumers up to $68 every two years. Noting that Anchorage has not violated federal clean air standards since 1997, and acknowledging that newer, less-polluting vehicles have become predominant, the EPA upheld the Assembly's decision to end the 27-year program, setting a February 9th termination date.

Except there's a caveat -- the Assembly included a clause to delay the end of the program until six months after the EPA approval in order to give emission testing companies sufficient time to adjust. This means that technically, every motorist whose vehicle registration anniversary comes up between February 9th and August 9th would still have to obtain an IM certificate -- for a program that will have effectively expired.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan doesn't think that makes sense, so he's asking the Assembly to remove the six-month grace period so the program can end on March 1st at the latest. Sullivan believes the IM testing outlets have had ample time to adjust. And many of them have adjusted; every Xpress Lube outlet in town has expanded the range of services offered to include tires and more extensive mechanical work during the past year and a half. The Anchorage Daily News also doesn't think the grace period makes sense, so they've editorially called for the Assembly to end it as well.

One of the IM testing outlets still defends the program. Brad Lamb, a manager with Car Care Center, said the I/M program works and not having violations is proof of that. “You gotta be responsible for the air, for the environment,” Lamb said. “I’m not a big greenie, but this is one of the things that can help out a lot. Obviously it’s made a big difference.”

Public Reaction: Overwhelmingly favorable; most of the reaction documented in the 129 comments appended to the January 10th ADN story.

keysgoclick 21 January 11th 11:15 A.M:
I'm glad the program is ending. My car, a 2001 will not pass IM test because of a false positive service engine light indicative of a transmission problem. I've tested the car and it does not have this problem but rather a faulty sensor which would cost in the neighborhood of 2-3 thousand dollars to repair because the sensor is inside the transmission. I'm eligible for a waiver only after I've spent over 400 dollars on repairs, but why would I spend 400 dollars on a repair that is 3x that amount just to get a waiver. The program has too many flaws and just makes an unnecessary hassle for most people. I would support a tailpipe emissions testing law just to keep junk in the junkyard but I don't see nearly as many clunkers on the road these days anyways.

One person's concerned that the Anchorage Assembly, in order to make up for lost revenue, might decided to mandate a safety inspection program for vehicles. What a pain in the ass that would be for us, considering how easy it is for windshields to get dinged by flying rocks:

dingleberry January 10th 9:58 P.M:
The fact is that we will be happy when the IM testing is gone but wait until next year when the Assembly votes to initiate a safety inspection program which will definitely cause a lot of people headaches and cost us more money that the IM did. We will be wishing the IM testing back. All of the cracked windshields, Tie-rods, and everything else that causes a vehicle to be unsafe. Somehow the assembly will keep these guys in business with our money.

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