Washington says goodbye to vehicle emissions testing on Jan. 1, 2020

Emission testing
Courtesy: Washington state Dept. of Ecology

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s vehicle emissions check program is ending after 38 years.

According to the Department of Ecology, vehicle owners will no longer need to have their emissions tested before renewing their registration as of Jan. 1, 2020. Only certain personal and fleet vehicles were required to be tested in recent years.

The department says if your vehicle is scheduled for testing in the last few days of 2019, you still need to get that test in order to renew your tabs.

They actually expect air quality to improve as older cars get replaced with newer, cleaner ones, the department said.

But why is the program ending? The Department of Ecology explains:

Air quality in Washington is much cleaner than when the program began in 1982, and every community in our state currently meets all federal air quality standards. The combination of the testing program, advances in vehicle technology, and improved motor fuels have led to significant reductions in transportation-related air pollution.

In 2005, the Legislature passed a plan to phase out emission testing based on Ecology’s projection that we would no longer need the program by 2020 (RCW 70.120.170). Despite the end of mandatory emission testing, we believe air quality will continue to improve in the years ahead as newer, cleaner vehicles replace older, less-efficient models.

Even after the emission check program ends, Ecology and our local clean air agency partners will continue to monitor, protect, and improve air quality. We are also continuing to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles — the largest source of carbon pollution in Washington.

The department also commented on why the program didn’t end sooner.

Wrapping up the program was dependent on Washington’s air quality meeting certain thresholds set in law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required that Washington’s air quality not just meet federal standards, but that we can demonstrate that we’ve reached a point where our air quality won’t worsen without the emission check program in place. As a safeguard against air quality declining, the EPA requires Ecology to have a contingency plan that would restart the emission check program, if necessary.