Ruling would expand vehicle emissions testing

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Annual vehicle emissions inspections now required only on cars in Pennsylvania's two biggest metropolitan areas may soon be the norm in as many as 25 counties, including Mercer, thanks to recent court decisions.
A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled last month that Pennsylvania violated the federal Clean Air Act when it missed a 1999 deadline to implement tailpipe exhaust tests in most of the state's industrialized areas.
Pennsylvania now requires cars and trucks to be tested for air pollutants only in the nine counties that make up Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and their suburbs.
In his Dec. 18 ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson said vehicles in 16 more counties should also undergo the tests.
Baylson didn't set a timetable for how soon he wants the inspections to be in place, or specify what type of emissions test he would like to see performed. Baylson scheduled hearings in February to deal with both issues.
Department of Transportation officials said if the ruling stands, it would likely mean that millions of cars from Scranton to Harrisburg in the east, and Erie to Johnstown in the west, would be subject to emissions inspections for the first time.
The decision has been hailed by environmentalists.
Jeanne Clark, a spokeswoman for Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the group that filed the suit heard by Baylson, said: "It's the older cars that are the problem. ... Those clunkers that are belching blue smoke, that are the ones we are most concerned with."
Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Allegheny, Washington, Beaver and Westmoreland counties have had emissions inspections since 1997. Blair, Cambria, Erie, Mercer, Centre, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Lebanon, Lancaster, York, Dauphin, Lehigh, Northampton, Berks and Cumberland counties would be forced to add emissions inspections if Baylson's ruling stands.

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