EPA Imposes First Federal Funding Limitations to Spur Auto Inspection Programs

[EPA press release - March 1, 1980]

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that in Colorado on March 14 it will impose the first limitations anywhere on Federal highway construction and sewage treatment funding because the State failed to authorize an auto pollution inspection program.

The move was triggered by the Colorado legislature's failure to pass enabling legislation for an auto emission control plan by the lawmakers' self-imposed deadline of March 1. It is the first use of the funding limits in the Nation and could affect more than $300 million worth of sewer and highway projects in Colorado.

EPA's Denver Regional Administrator Roger Williams told a news conference today he had been prepared to delay the funding limits for a brief period if passage of acceptable legislation seemed imminent.

Talks with elected officials, legislative leaders, the Governor and others convinced him, however, that no authority for an emissions control program would be forthcoming in the immediate future.

Including Colorado, 29 States across the nation need auto inspection/maintenance programs in certain of their urban areas to reduce carbon monoxide and ozone pollution in order to meet national air quality standards by 1987. Twenty-one of these States already have State legislation authorizing the programs.

The Clean Air Act requires auto inspection programs in all States which cannot meet air quality standards by 1982. The law authorizes the withholding of highway and sewage treatment funds if the inspection programs are not developed.

The 21 States that now have legal authority for inspection/maintenance are Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Missouri, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. The States lacking leal authority are Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

If the Colorado limitations remain in place through the end of September, 1980, 33 sewage treatment facility projects involving $134.9 million in Federal funding may be affected, as well as 60 highway projects scheduled to draw $166.6 million in U.S. funds.

The only areas in Colorado affected by the limitations will be the Denver metro area, Colorado Springs, and Ft. Collins-Greeley.

The limitations are of three basic kinds: First, a case-by-case halt to any further EPA funding for construction of certain sewage treatment plants in the above areas; Second, the halting by the U.S. Department of Transportation of Federal highway funds, except for projects directly related to improving air quality or those associated with mass transit or safety requirements (these exemption are ordered by the Federal Clean Air Act); Third, a freeze on permits for construction or modification of major stationary sources which would emit carbon monoxide or hydrocarbons (a prime ingredient of smog). While carbon monoxide is not usually associated with stationary sources, large amounts of hydrocarbons do come from refineries, brewery can plants, painting and degreasing operations and other industrial processes.

Inspection/maintenance is a key element in reducing motor vehicle emissions. A preliminary study showed that Portland, Oregon's I/M program reduced average yearly auto hydrocarbon emissions by 24 percent and carbon monoxide by 34 percent.

State experience has shown that I/M consumer costs are reasonable. Many cars of course, pass inspection and don't have any repair costs at all. For those that do need repairs, average costs have been low: from $16-$35. Average costs in Portland have been $29--similar costs are reported in Arizona and New Jersey.

Another benefit from I/M is the increased gas mileage. EPA has found that if high-polluting cars are property adjusted, average fuel economy will increase by 3-4 percent.