In the aftermath of Memphis’ smoggiest summer in years, local efforts to control air pollution have been thrown into disarray by the city’s decision to withdraw funds for vehicle emissions testing and a Shelby County Commission squabble over plans for a new monitoring station.
After the City Council’s vote in August to cut the $2.7 million inspection program after next June 30, a committee appointed by County Mayor Mark Luttrell began studying options for vehicle testing and other air quality issues. Although it’s early in the process, three main scenarios are emerging, according to interviews with several officials:
The county could take over the program, running it in much the same form but expanding it to also require inspections of vehicles owned by residents living in unincorporated areas of Shelby, not just those within Memphis city limits.
The state could take over the program and run it on a contract basis, in which case owners would pay a fee – probably $10 – to have their vehicles inspected.
Or the program could be dropped, which likely would prompt federal regulators to require industry emissions to be slashed to make up for the increased pollution from cars. Also, state officials said they could require the city to repay nearly $4 million in grant funds used to help build the new inspection station on Appling.
In addition to the uncertainty over auto inspections, a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to the county – intended to fund the installation of another air-quality monitoring station – is in doubt. County Commissioners are considering rejecting the grant because they disagree with the proposed location off of Interstate 40 at Southwest Tennessee Community College.