Washington ending mandatory emission testing in 2020

After 38 years, Washington’s vehicle emission testing program will be going away next year.

Officials say that advances in technology and improvements in fuel quality have led to significant reductions in transportation-related air pollution.

“Air quality is just a lot better than it was when we started this program in 1982,” said Andy Wineke, an air quality specialist with the state Department of Ecology. “New vehicles just have much better emission control systems. The air quality all around us is better.”

The Legislature passed the law in 2005 to officially end the testing Jan. 1, 2020.

Wineke says the state’s been working toward that goal ever since.

“We looked at this pretty closely,” he said. “We had to prove it to the EPA to go ahead and cancel this program.”

Wineke said despite the end of mandatory emission testing, the state is confident air quality will continue to improve as newer, cleaner vehicles replace older, less-efficient models.

But the state will still continue to keep an eye on things, just in case.

“We have air monitors all across the state,” he said. “If we see a problem, you know, we’ll take steps to address that. But we don’t envision this program coming back.”

That’s good news for the thousands of Washington drivers who have had to pass emission testing before renewing their tabs every year.

It will not, however, help those whose vehicles are due to be tested this year. Wineke said there’s a simple reason for that. The law is still the law until it changes in 2020.

“If you want to renew your tabs (and your vehicle is due to be tested)," he said. "Go get the test. The test is $15. A ticket for expired tabs is a lot more than that.”

Wineke also stressed that just because the state will no longer be requiring vehicles to be tested, the standard for vehicles remains the same.

“The law doesn’t change,” he said. “If you’re driving down the road right now with a muffler hanging on the street. You can get ticketed for that.”

He also suggested it is in the best interest of all of us to keep our vehicles performing properly.

“If you see that emissions light on, if you hear something wrong with your engine, take it in, get it checked,” he said. “It’s not just to protect the air we all breathe, on a modern car if you have a problem with any of that stuff it causes all kinds of other problems.”