Emission test reminders resume after vendor offers to do it for free
Drivers won't have any excuses not to get an emissions test with the resumption of mailed reminders, courtesy of a state vendor that will do it for free.
The action comes after warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the state was in danger of flouting the Clean Air Act.
With the ongoing budget crisis, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency couldn't afford to send notices out and suspended the reminders in December. The first batch of drivers affected by the change were those with license plates expiring in March.
Mailers will resume today. Test notices will be retroactive to the first drivers that were not mailed reminders, state officials said.
Typically, drivers without current emissions tests are refused license plate stickers but Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White lifted that penalty on March 1. That requirement will be reinstated June 1, meaning drivers whose vehicles are due for emissions tests will need to get that done before obtaining a sticker.
That rule was eased to avoid punishing drivers for the lack of a state budget but the federal government and environmental groups argued it would increase air pollution.
U.S. EPA regulators reprimanded the state agency in a letter warning of "potentially serious consequences" for the environment of ignoring pollution controls required in the Clean Air Act.
"If Illinois changes the (vehicle inspection and maintenance) program ... it would deviate from what is currently approved in the (state's ozone reduction plan)," U.S. EPA Air and Radiation Director George T. Czerniak wrote Feb. 19. "Such action is of concern to the U.S. EPA."
The IEPA's vehicle emissions contractor, Applus Technologies of Wood Dale, agreed to print and send the test notices at no extra cost.
About 7 percent of light-duty vehicles flunked emissions tests in 2014, a Freedom of Information Act request to the IEPA showed. That's 133,104 out of 1.9 million cars, vans and SUVs, according to the most recent annual report.
Data from 2013 indicated a similar pattern, with a 7 percent failure rate, or 131,328 out of 1.87 million cars, vans and SUVs checked.
To find out more, go to http://www.epa.illinois.gov/.