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Sierra Club Opposes Ending Tailpipe Emission Testing


press release

Beginning in May, the Christie Administration New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will no longer be testing tailpipe emissions from automobiles. This will mean that all vehicles will be exempt from air quality inspections. This will effect old cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs. The Sierra Club is opposed to this decision. Relaxed inspection standards increase air quality and safety concerns for motorists and residents.


“What the Christie Administration is doing is wrong; it will impact the people of New Jersey right in the lungs. The MVC is siding with polluting old cars over protecting public health and the environment. This is a decision that is bad for the environment and also impacts safety. This decision allows old cars, pick-ups and SUVS to be exempt from tailpipe testing. This will affect the people in urban areas the most. New Jersey still has some of the worst air pollution in the nation. Most of our pollution comes from mobile sources such as tailpipe emissions. Not a single county in New Jersey meets the standard for ground level ozone. By eliminating this standard, we will have more dirty air and more children with asthma attacks,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This change means that 200,000 older cars will no longer need to be tested, which means more pollution will come from them. When people bring in their cars for testing they keep them in better shape. Now they won’t have to do this.”


This decision will impact urban areas especially. These areas already have some of the worst air quality in the nation. For example, Newark’s school children experience a 25 percent asthma rate, double the state and national rates. Treatment for asthma alone accounts for 12 percent of New Jersey’s managed care costs.


“The decision to stop testing tailpipe emissions will also mean that people who go to get their cars inspected won’t maintain their vehicles as well. This affects at least 50,000 clunkers, the oldest and dirtiest cars in New Jersey that cause the most smog. These are the cars that could not pass the air monitoring tests. Now they can keep violating the standards and keep polluting. These cars are 10 times dirtier than a newer car and 30 times dirtier than a Prius. As vehicles get older they pollute more. They need to be maintained in order to reduce pollution and safety issues and these inspections are critical for that. When automobile owners are required to have their vehicles inspected every year, they tend to have tune-ups, oil-changes and keep their tires inflated. These vehicles run more efficiently and produce fewer emissions. They are also safer. Eliminating these inspections will mean more unsafe and polluting vehicles on the roads of New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel.


Pollutants that come from the tailpipes of our cars and trucks threatens our health and environment in New Jersey and around the country. Ending emissions testing will mean more air pollution and unsafe roads. Coupled with cuts in transit, decreased inspections will lead to New Jersey’s air becoming dirtier, especially in urban areas.


“New Jersey will not meet federal standard for tailpipe emissions if we’re not testing them. We may be violating the State Implementation Program under the Clean Air Act. By getting rid of these inspections, we’re turning a blind eye as we start choking on more air pollution. This will make cars not only dirtier for the environment but more unsafe as well, adding more toxins to the air such as benzene. In places like California, they’re making tailpipe emission standards stricter yet in New Jersey we’re doing away with them. We should be increasing our emissions standards and making them stronger, not making decisions that lead to more air pollution,” said Jeff Tittel.


New Jersey has a history of inefficiently dealing with the issue of tailpipe emission testing. It began in the Whitman Administration. Now the Christie Administration is making things much worse by eliminating testing altogether.


“The Whitman Administration started to privatize tailpipe inspection program with the Parson’s Contract. It didn’t work and was an environmental and financial fiasco. In 2012 the Christie Administration ended safety inspections programs and they still paid the consultants $12.6 million for work that was never done. Now the Christie Administration is making it even worse by ending tailpipe emissions inspections altogether. Yet, people are still paying a fee on their registration to pay for that contract that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Jeff Tittel. “Newer cars are tested through a computer. Without these state tailpipe inspections, if your car fails the computer diagnostic test then you have to go to a private garage to get inspected. This continues the privatization in the failed and flawed Parson’s contract from the 1990’s.”


The Christie Administration is doing this as a continuation of their rollbacks of clean air. The state is suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan. Governor Christie pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). New Jersey also did not sign on to the EV compact with eight other states.


“This decision is part of the Christie Administration’s anti-regulatory agenda of rolling back protections for clean air and clean water. The State of New Jersey has done very little to reduce mobile sources of air pollution. The Governor has blocked the sales of Tesla and programs designed to promote electric vehicles and charging stations and didn’t join the regional compact. Now he’s eliminating emissions tests for automobiles as part of his environmental rollbacks,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This decision is unconscionable; it will mean more wasted fuel and more air pollution.”