LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. – Airmen with vehicles registered out-of-state are still subject to local emissions standards, according to the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments.
Even with authorization to maintain out-of-state registration under the provisions of the Service members Civil Relief Act, local inspection and testing of a vehicle’s emissions system may be required in order to bring vehicles up to local clean air and smog check requirements. The law requires that all federal employees, including service members and civilians, who commute to federal installations 60 days or more per year must have their vehicle inspected and tested to local standards. Federal agencies are required to track employee vehicle compliance with local regulations.
“The biggest impact is probably on young Airmen,” said Darren Rector, Air Quality Manager at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. “They’re moving often, and they like to soupup their cars with add-on parts that may not be legal in different states.”
Beale was the first Air Combat Command Base to implement the program, though three other ACC Bases have already followed suite. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., will all soon implement the program.
ECARS has already been implemented at some ACC bases; once activated, it automatically emails federal employees to notify them of their duty to comply with local requirements. The email contains instructions on how to walk through the online wizard, which checks their emissions certification against local laws, which can vary widely from state to state and even county to county.
“Congress has waived sovereign immunity from clean air act regulations,” said Will Rottgering, a Northrop Grumman contractor facilitating the implementation of the Air Force vehicle inspection and maintenance program for the Air Force Civil Engineering Center in San Antonio. “The Air Force uses a system called ECARS [Employee-vehicle Certification and Reporting System] to comply with the record keeping requirement of section 118(d) of the Clean Air Act. ECARS allows employees to, in about three minutes, self-certify whether or not they have met the requirements of their local vehicle emissions testing program.”
Because the law is a federal statute, there is no way to reimburse Airmen for expenses incurred while becoming compliant, according to Air Force instruction. Punishments for not certifying vehicles to local emissions standards can include tickets, administrative action and revocation of driving privileges for civilians and Airmen.
“There are many locations which have exemptions for different types of cars, depending on their age and whether or not they are diesel, hybrid, or fall in to another specific category,” said Rottgering. “In order to avoid having to look all that up, ECARS does it automatically when service members enter their vehicle information.
Regardless of whether or not a vehicle is exempt, employees will still need to go into ECARS to complete the self-certification process. ECARS provides personnel the option to select from a list of valid exemptions for their area. If further action is required, the system will prompt employees to take to do so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I don’t think this requirement applies to my situation. Am I still required to access ECARS?
A: Yes. All federal employees (civilian and military) are required to complete the self-certification process in ECARS regardless of their situation. ECARS provides a wizard-like tool that will guide you through the process, which usually takes less than five minutes to complete.
Q: What if I don’t drive a vehicle onto the facility indicated by the email notice from ECARS?
A: You may still receive an email either because the Air Force Directory Services feed that ECARS uses for personnel rosters has inaccurate or imprecise data about your work location or because you simply don’t drive a personal vehicle onto the specified facility. In either case, you are still required to access ECARS and complete the self-certification process by simply answering “no” to the first question in the certification wizard.
Q: My vehicle is registered out of state or in some other area that does not require emissions testing. Do I need to access ECARS and complete the process?
A: Yes. Regardless of your commuting situation, you must access ECARS and complete the process. Vehicles driven onto a facility located within an area with a vehicle emissions program, 60 or more days per year are required to comply with local emissions testing requirements, regardless of their registration. Upon completing the self-certification process in ECARS, the system will prompt you to take further action if required.
Q: My vehicle was emissions tested in another locale. Will that test meet this emissions test requirement?
A: Maybe. ECARS will prompt you to specify the county/municipality that performed your emissions test. Based on your response, you will be directed to take further action if necessary.
Q: My vehicle is exempt from emissions testing. Do I need to complete this process?
A: Yes. ECARS will provide you the opportunity to select an exemption that is valid for this area. As long as your exemption is valid in the area wherein the base is located, no further action will be required.
Editor’s note: Senior Airman Timothy Moore, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this report.