WASHINGTON-California, Illinois and Indiana stand to lose nearly $1.8 billion total in federal highway funds unless they meet Environmental Protection Agency demands for enhanced vehicle emissions inspection programs. All three states have received official notice that the EPA will seek sanctions against them in the spring unless their legislatures pass acceptable inspection/maintenance (I/M) bills, the agency said in a Jan. 7 press release.
This EPA action threatens some $800 million in federal highway funds California receives annually, as well as $700 million for Illinois and $280 million for Indiana.
The agency had already singled out California for its failure to implement the I/M standards set forth under the authority of the Clean Air Act of 1991.
Besides requiring much stricter emissions testing than before, the EPA's I/M regulations strongly encourage the centralization of emissions testing, away from the service outlets performing the repairs.
``Our surveys show that the I/M programs which combine testing and repair achieve about half the emissions reduction as the programs which keep testing and repair separate,'' said Bill Glenn of EPA Region IX in San Francisco.
California auto repairers, however, vehemently oppose centralized emissions testing. They regard emissions testing as a money-maker and a competitive tool, and they have persuaded many California state legislators to take their side.
S.B. 629, an emissions inspection bill that passed the state Senate Treasury Committee Jan. 11, ``doesn't sufficiently separate the testing and repair functions,'' Mr. Glenn said. ``The measures in that bill won't add up to the emissions reductions the Clean Air Act requires.''
This is particularly ironic, he added, because California usually leads the U.S. in environmental legislation, and it also has the worst air quality of any state.
``Eighty percent of California residents live in areas that don't meet federal air quality standards,'' he said.
In Illinois and Indiana, the problems are slightly different, according to Anne Rowan of EPA Region V in Chicago.
Illinois has drafted I/M legislation the EPA deems appropriate, Ms. Rowan said, but its legislature hasn't passed it. Indiana's new I/M program is basically sound, she added, but doesn't have a workable funding mechanism.
Both state legislatures will meet this month, which will give them time to consider the I/M issue. Federal and regional EPA officials have been meeting informally with personnel from all three state governments in an effort to obtain the required I/M programs before sanctions kick in.
``We've put off this action a couple of times to give them time to establish an I/M program,'' Mr. Glenn said.
The sanctions wouldn't go into effect until summer, he added, ``and we hope to avoid them altogether.''