RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Vehicle emissions testing is scheduled to end in all but one North Carolina county pending approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mecklenburg County would be the only county still required to perform emissions testing under Section 12.7 in the latest state budget.

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Currently, there are 19 counties in the state where emissions inspections are required alongside annual safety inspections, according to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

Those counties are:

  • Alamance
  • Buncombe
  • Cabarrus
  • Cumberland
  • Davidson
  • Durham
  • Forsyth
  • Franklin
  • Gaston
  • Guilford
  • Iredell
  • Johnston
  • Lincoln
  • Mecklenburg
  • New Hanover
  • Randolph
  • Rowan
  • Wake
  • Union

Some light-duty vehicles with less than 70,000 miles, vehicles 20 years old and up, diesel-operated vehicles and registered farm vehicles are exempt from emissions testing under the current policy.

As part of the new policy, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality would have a year to create a plan for staying in line with federal air quality standards without emissions testing.

The new policy would go into effect on the first day of the month which is at least 60 days after the EPA’s approval is certified by NCDEQ.

Emissions testing in North Carolina “consists of connecting a certified analyzer to the vehicle’s OBDII system to verify that all vehicle emissions components/systems are working per the manufacturer specifications along with a visual safety/tamper inspection,” according to NCDEQ. OBDII stands for the second generation of on-board diagnostic systems that was developed for 1996 and newer vehicles.

The maximum annual fee for an emissions inspection is $30. However, an inspection station can choose to charge less than that, according to NCDEQ. The station receives $23.75 of the fee and the remainder goes to support various state programs.

If a vehicle fails an emissions inspection, the owner is required to have the problem diagnosed and the vehicle repaired before retesting. The second test is free if you return to the same inspection station within 60 days.

A faulty catalytic converter is often the cause of failed emissions testing. Repairs for catalytic converters range in cost but on the high end can cost thousands of dollars, according to Advance Auto Parts.

Most current forms of emissions testing stem from the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA, “vehicle inspection and maintenance programs help improve air quality by identifying cars and trucks with high emissions that may need repairs.”

In April, WNCN reported that the General Assembly proposed a new bill to end emissions tests and make safety inspections only necessary every other year rather than annually.

In Nov. 2022, Rockingham County became the 81st county in North Carolina to not require emissions testing.

NCDEQ said they studied the county-level emissions increases that could come from this change and concluded that removing these three counties “will not interfere with continued attainment or maintenance of any applicable National Ambient Air Quality Standard.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the plan.

Under the new policy, safety inspections will be required every other year. Currently, they are required annually.