2020 Leg Session, Environment, Featured, Original Report, Scott Weiser, Transportation

For the second year, a check engine light bill seeks to ease emissions inspections

DENVER–With the 2020 legislative session underway, state Senators Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada and John Cooke, R-Greeley, along with House Representatives Chris Hanson, D-Denver and Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs submitted Senate Bill 20-036 to allow drivers to complete an emissions tailpipe inspection even if the vehicle’s check engine light is on.

Colorado law says if the “check engine” light is on, the vehicle fails the emissions inspection immediately.

During last year’s legislative session, Zenzinger and Cooke offered a similar bill, seeking to ease difficulties drivers face when getting a vehicle emissions inspection.

Drivers have to have the problem fixed so the light is off and return for another inspection. But many cars have sensors indicating problems having nothing to do with emissions, such as burned out light bulbs or low fluids.

The automatic fail means drivers have to have minor repairs not associated with emissions fixed before they can pass the inspection.

The bill failed last time around

This year’s bill directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to seek approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a change in the federal rules for Colorado’s air pollution program to allow a vehicle to undergo the tailpipe emissions test even if the check engine light is on.

Prior to submitting the request, CDPHE must provide opportunity for written comments and have a stakeholder meeting “to solicit input on the proposal” and the proposal “must take into consideration any stakeholder input received,” including from emissions inspectors, legislators, car manufacturers, air quality control experts and “owners of vehicles that failed the on-board diagnostics test solely because” the check engine light was on.

Under the bill, the CDPHE is required to adopt the proposal by December 1, 2020 and submit the proposal to the EPA by May 5, 2021. The law would automatically be repealed if the EPA rejects the revision.

In 1994, when the emissions inspection law was passed, legislators felt the warning indicator would remind owners to go to a repair shop where problems could be addressed and repaired before the emissions testing took place.

The practical effect was that vehicles that could pass the emissions inspection were being denied the test merely because some other minor issue, including faulty sensors, turned the light on.

The bill has been assigned to the Transportation & Energy Committee.

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