Q: What is E-check?
A: E-check is the name of Ohio EPA’s vehicle emissions testing program. The program started in Ohio in 1996 as a means to identify vehicles that emit an excessive amount of air pollutants. Air pollutants typically emitted from vehicle tailpipes (which contribute to the formation of ground level ozone) include hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.
Q: Why is E-check required in only certain counties of the state?
A: The Clean Air Act and U.S. EPA require states to monitor and classify air quality around the state in comparison to the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Areas that do not meet applicable standards are classified as nonattainment areas. Any nonattainment area identified as moderate, serious, severe, or extreme is required to implement vehicle emissions testing. Ohio law requires emission testing only where it is federally required. Ohio’s vehicle testing program is currently required only for vehicles registered in seven Ohio counties. These seven counties are all located in the Cleveland area (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties). Previously, Dayton and Cincinnati area counties were also part of Ohio’s E-check program, but the program is no longer required in those counties.
Q: What vehicles must be tested?
A: Any vehicle, including gasoline, diesel, flexible fuel or hybrid, must be tested if: (1) it is 10,000 pounds or less in gross weight, (2) it is less than 25 years old and (3) it is or should be registered in an E-check county. Diesel-fueled vehicles model year 1996 and older must also be “opacity” tested to determine the amount of particulate matter emitted. The timing of the testing cycle is based upon the vehicle’s model year: “odd” model year vehicles must be tested in odd calendar years (such as 2013); likewise, “even” model year vehicles must be tested in even calendar years. New vehicles are exempt from the testing requirement for four model years. If you purchase a used car and the car’s seller provides a valid E-check compliance certificate, you don’t need to test again until the applicable even or odd model year. You can also check with the State at 1-800-CAR-TEST (using the vehicle identification number) to see if the vehicle has a valid E-check compliance certificate. If the used vehicle does not have a valid E-check compliance certificate, you must have the vehicle tested prior to registering the vehicle. Inspection certificates are valid for 365 days following the emission test date, thus Ohio EPA recommends testing well in advance of your vehicle’s registration expiration date.
Q: What if I am a new resident to an E-check county?
A: You will not be able to register your vehicle in the E-check county until the vehicle emission test is taken and passed. What information you will need to take with you for the testing will depend on whether you are a new Ohio resident or an existing Ohio resident. For E-check information specific to your circumstance, go to http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/echeck/testing_info/what_to_bring.aspx .
Q: How long will Ohio be required to implement a vehicle testing program?
A: No one really knows, but the program will be in effect at least until June 2015. Ohio EPA believes its E-check program is the most cost-effective method to help reduce air pollutants and maintain the air quality required by the federal Clean Air Act. The program exists in areas of the state that are not attaining federal ambient air quality standards, and will likely remain in place until those areas have attained those standards and can demonstrate that attainment can be maintained without the E-check program. Reduction in pollutant emissions from cars allows more room for new or expanded businesses by lowering the total air pollutant loads. In June 2012, Ohio EPA implemented a new, decentralized program for Ohio E-check vehicle emissions testing that was designed to provide more convenience for Ohio motorists who are subject to the testing requirements. Specifically, the updated E-check program added 53 new E-check testing stations, 16 of which include self-service on-board diagnostic testing kiosks, bringing the total locations for emissions testing to 76. The state is under contract with Envirotest, the E-check program operator, through June 2015.
It is worth noting that U.S. EPA has been considering a more stringent air standard which, if finalized, could result in a) prolonged implementation of the E-check program in the seven Ohio counties currently subject to emission testing requirements, and b) E-check being implemented in additional counties determined to be in non-attainment of the new standard.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Kristin L. Watt, an attorney in the Columbus office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, and updated by Ryan D. Elliott of the same office.