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Local autos have to pass emissions test starting May 1

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The Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - This May, the cost of vehicle inspection will rise from about $12. 50 to almost $40, thanks to a new emissions state law.

Along with the emissions testing requirement, the AirCheck Texas legislation going into effect May 1 will provide repair or replacement assistance to qualifying vehicle owners who fail the test.

'This affects gasoline vehicles two to 24 model years of age,' said Bob Wiecrzwiecki of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's regulatory environ-

mental agency. 'This means 1979 through 2001 model years. This is a definite for this county.'

The inspection fees will be a maximum of $39.50, which includes the regular safety inspection fee of $12.50.

'We said ‘up to' because we want to give the inspection stations the latitude to adjust that to encourage people to come in during the week, or before the end of the month,' Wiecrzwiecki said. 'Six dollars from every test goes to fund this [AirCheck] program.'

Many inspection stations are worried the strict mandate will force them out of business.

'In an economy like this, we can't afford to update all of our equipment,' said one state inspection station owner in Ovilla. 'These [mandates], if not met, will force some to go out of business.'

The new emissions testing mandates are an effort to crack down on Ellis County air pollution, local environmental group officials said, because this county produces the Dallas-Fort Worth area's smoggiest air.

Groups like the Blue Skies Alliance, based in Duncanville, have fought hard to get pollution controls on Midlothian cement plants.

Currently, Ellis County is not included in the area's ozone attainment area, despite being the largest source of air pollution, according to state and federal air quality statistics presented by the BlueSkies organization.

County Treasurer Ron Langenheder questioned the new mandate at TCEQ's presentation before County Commissioners Feb. 10.

'The state tells us we have to do this. I'd just assume the state not tell us what to do, but we can't do anything about it,' he said.

Langenheder asked where the additional fees from the requirements would go, but didn't get a straightforward answer.

'I'm not sure if it was the county coffers or stations themselves,' Langenheder said. 'I didn't get a very clear answer [from TCEQ officials].'

TCEQ officials said the money collected from the additional testing fees would come back to the county.

'This is a grant program where the money is passed through the state to the county,' Wiecrzwiecki said. 'Five percent of that [additional fee] is allowed for administrative costs.'

Langenheder called the new round of state legislation a 'mandated monopoly' on not only Ellis County residents, but state inspection station owners.

Common reasons for failing the state's emissions test include faulty air pump, ignition system, exhaust gas recirculation system, catalytic converter, gas cap, or internal engine problems.

For more information, call DPS at 512-424-2770 or visit the website at www.airchecktexas.com.

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