Spending Fuel and Money--Will Emission Testing Arrive in East Texas?

Go to get your car inspected around East Texas, and it's a pretty simple deal. But in larger cities with big pollution problems, there's something called emissions testing and it really adds to the inspection cost.

Smith County is on the verge of having to require emission testing, and county leaders say it's because they're lumped together with a bunch of other counties that aren't adequately controlling their pollution levels.

Auto repair shops that offer inspections and drivers are not looking forward to the prospect.

Tommy Butler, owner of Butler Alignment & Brake Inc in Tyler, hopes the test will be kept out of Smith County altogether. The emission inspection adds $27 to total inspection cost, plus whatever repairs are required to meet emission guidelines.

"It's almost like a sales tax, in the end, the consumer pays for it," Butler says.

Under the emission program, cars older than two years failing to meet emission guidelines will not pass their state inspection. And those check engine lights that are easily ignored could cause drivers to fail.

"What's going to be bad for the customer is when you tell them their car is not going to pass," says Butler. "And they may spend a $100 to $300 to get it running."

For Butler and his auto repair crew, the guidelines also mean more work and more money spent on capital.

"The equipment out lay to be able to do this is very expensive and some smaller service providers may just quit doing inspections."

While Butler's crew works their way through the day, air quality representatives in Tyler are trying to keep Smith County designated as an area in attainment with air quality control. If they can do that, they could prevent the onset of stricter emission guidelines. If Smith County is forced to implement the testing, local experts say the earliest it could happen is April 2004.