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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Statewide vehicle emissions testing program ends Tuesday; land near Gonzaga to be developed by Stockton

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 30, 2019

In this 1985 file photo, vehicles of all varieties can be seen lining up to their emissions tested in Spokane. On Wednesday, the two emissions testing centers in Spokane and Spokane Valley will close as the emissions testing program ends, thanks to cleaner-burning fuel and newer cars that create less pollution. (The Spokesman-Review / File)
In this 1985 file photo, vehicles of all varieties can be seen lining up to their emissions tested in Spokane. On Wednesday, the two emissions testing centers in Spokane and Spokane Valley will close as the emissions testing program ends, thanks to cleaner-burning fuel and newer cars that create less pollution. (The Spokesman-Review / File)

After more than 38 years, Washington state’s emissions testing program for cars and trucks is ending.

When state licensing offices reopen Thursday, residents will no longer be required to obtain an emissions check to renew vehicle registrations. The Washington State Department of Ecology, which oversees the emissions program, indicates advances in vehicle technology and improved motor fuels led to significant reductions in transportation-related air pollution.

In Spokane, the emissions testing station across Hamilton Street from Gonzaga University will be closed and then developed into apartments and retail shops by a company led by former Gonzaga basketball great John Stockton, according to business plans filed with the City of Spokane.

The company paid $2.9 million for the property with plans for a four-story building and parking garage, according to site plans filed by developer Kent Hull.

The deal came about in the aftermath of Ecology’s prediction that air quality would improve enough by 2020 that emissions testing would no longer be needed.

“When we began the emission check program back in 1982, air pollution from carbon monoxide and ozone was a serious concern in many of our biggest cities,” Kathy Taylor, manager of Ecology’s air quality program, said in a news release issued Monday. “Today, new cars are much, much cleaner than in decades past, which means we can continue to improve our state’s air quality without these regular tests.”

The Legislature passed a plan in 2005 to phase out vehicle emission testing after adopting more stringent standards for new cars and trucks.

The emissions standards took effect in 2008, exempting vehicles made after 2009 and models older than 25 years. That meant fewer cars were required to get emission checks, and tests declined from a peak of 1.3 million in the mid-2000s to 750,000 in 2018.

Closure of the state emissions testing program will affect 180 employees with Applus Technologies, a Chicago-based contractor that operates the testing stations; a dozen employees at Ecology and several people working at independent testing stations and certified repair facilities.

Two vehicle emissions testing stations in Spokane and Spokane Valley will close.

Applus and the state are working with employees to find other jobs, according to the news release.

WorkSource Spokane met with employees at the vehicle emissions inspection station at 920 N. Hamilton St. to share resources for future employment options, said Ed Fischer, who is manager of the facility.

Fischer has worked at the station for about 31 years. At one point the station employed 18 people. Now, it’s down to six employees, he said.

Fischer, who worked as a dealership mechanic prior to the vehicle emission-testing station, is unsure of where he’ll end up working, but remains optimistic.

“We all have to find a new job,” he said.

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