Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced Tuesday, Aug. 17 that vehicle emissions testing in five Tennessee counties will end on January 14, 2022 now that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a revision to the state’s air quality plan.

EPA’s approval, which was published in the Federal Register on August 17, 2021 and becomes effective on September 16, 2021, means vehicle emissions testing will end on January 14, 2022 in five counties – Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson. Davidson County has chosen to continue its testing program.

“This decision by EPA is a major step that means an end to mandatory tests of vehicles for many Tennesseans,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “It’s a recognition of the improvement of our state’s air quality and demonstrates the diligence Tennesseans have shown toward achieving and maintaining this goal.”

Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill in 2018 that eliminated vehicle emissions testing in the state 120 calendar days following EPA approval. In February 2020, the state submitted to EPA its revision to the state’s air quality plan requesting removal of the vehicle emissions testing program.

State Senator Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said, “Emissions testing has been an unfair burden not only on Tennessee taxpayers, but particularly our poorest residents who are forced to remedy auto issues they can’t afford. The testing no longer served a purpose as most modern vehicles are aligned with emissions standards. This long-awaited decision is a tremendous win for the people of Tennessee. My only regret is Representative Mike Carter, who also worked relentlessly to end this now needless government program, did not live to see this day.”

State Representative Joan Carter, R-Ooltewah, widow of Rep. Mike Carter, said, “I am pleased to learn that the vehicle emissions testing program is finally coming to an end. More fuel and energy efficient vehicles meant the program had largely outlived its usefulness, yet the financial hardship on the very Tennesseans who could least afford it remained in place. Thanks to Senator Watson, Leader Lamberth, TDEC, and all the great people across Tennessee who worked so hard to make this happen. Mike would be proud.”

And House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said, “Emission testing is not only time-consuming for taxpayers, but also completely unnecessary. Today’s vehicles are environmentally cleaner than ever before and Tennessee’s air quality is exceptional. I’m very proud we have finally eliminated this obsolete test that put a terrible burden on lower income families and small business owners by forcing them to pay for needless repairs.”

EPA determined that the removal of vehicle emissions testing in Tennessee is consistent with the federal Clean Air Act and all applicable regulations. EPA’s technical analysis concludes that after removal of vehicle emissions testing, Hamilton County and the Middle Tennessee area will continue to comply with all National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Since the NAAQS are set to protect public health and welfare, and EPA’s technical analysis shows that the areas will continue to comply with all NAAQS, public health and welfare will continue to be protected once vehicle emissions testing is removed from Tennessee’s air quality plan.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said, “Finally we will see an end to the unnecessary stress, long waits, and financial burdens placed on hardworking families in Williamson, Sumner, Rutherford, Hamilton, and Wilson counties where emissions testing is required. This action puts in motion the legislation our General Assembly passed in 2018 to end emissions testing and I appreciate the efforts of all of our legislators and state officials who have worked hard to end this burdensome requirement.”

The approval becomes effective on Thursday, Sept. 16,which is 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Tennessee law states the elimination of vehicle emissions testing is effective 120 days following EPA’s approval. Therefore, the effective end date of the program is January 14, 2022. In counties where vehicle emissions testing is ending, persons registering their vehicles on or before January 13, 2022 will still be required to get the vehicle emissions test. Residents in those counties who register after January 13, 2022 will not have to undergo vehicle emissions testing.

Tennessee law provides an option for local agencies with their own air pollution control program to continue vehicle emissions testing. Davidson County opted to continue vehicle emissions testing.