Air Pollution

Limited New Data on Inspection and Maintenance Program's Effectiveness Gao ID: RCED-96-63 March 21, 1996

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new rule in November 1992 requiring 83 of the most seriously polluted areas in 23 states to implement more-stringent programs to test for and reduce vehicle emissions. EPA data collected before November 1992 suggested that test-and-repair networks, in which inspector/mechanics in the testing stations were allowed to make repairs, were less effective in controlling emissions than were test-only networks. Consequently, EPA decreased by 50 percent the number of credits assigned to test-and-repair networks. Test-only networks continued to receive full credit. Some states and other interested parties questioned the adequacy of the supporting data behind the 50-percent decrease. This report discusses (1) the results of any audits, surveys, or studies done since November 1992 that have a bearing on this decrease and (2) the status of EPA efforts to provide states greater flexibility in designing more-stringent testing programs.

GAO found that: (1) EPA issued the 50-percent discount rule after it found that test-and-repair networks were less effective in controlling motor vehicle emissions; (2) since issuing the rule, EPA has not conducted any studies to obtain new data on the effectiveness of test-and-repair networks; (3) 14 of the 23 states required to implement enhanced I&M programs have not conducted studies on the 50-percent discount, mostly because they implemented, or intended to implement, test-only programs; (4) the other 9 states did not conduct studies to assess the relative effectiveness of the two kinds of I&M networks; (5) California studied relative effectiveness and concluded that there was little difference between test-and-repair networks and test-only networks; (6) Georgia is conducting a study, and the preliminary findings lead Georgia to believe that it should suffer only a 35- to 45-percent discount for its hybrid I&M program; and (7) Congress enacted legislation to eliminate automatic discounts based on the type of testing network and allow states 18 months to study their I&M programs' effectiveness. GAO also found that EPA has allowed the states great flexibility in implementing enhanced I&M programs by: (1) providing I&M system models; (2) establishing credits for test-only networks, for states that require that only certified mechanics perform repairs, and for less costly testing systems; (3) relaxing performance standards for states that can still meet their overall targets for reducing emissions.

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