How Maryland’s Emissions Laws Work and Why They Matter

Adherence to emissions laws should be one of America’s foremost concerns. U.S. car ownership figures reached a high in 2020, with over 91% of households having access to at least one vehicle and 1,868,994 of those vehicles being in Maryland. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average passenger vehicle produces around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

This underscores the massive level of emissions Maryland faces. Thankfully, there are emissions laws in place to help. This quick guide will walk you through how the Maryland’s emissions laws work, how you can obey them and who you can call for expert auto advice.

Car exhaust Fumes

The Basics of Emissions Laws

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which regulates hazardous air pollutants from all stationary and mobile sources, such as vehicles. Mobile-source pollutants harmful to life include benzene (present in gasoline), carbon dioxide, smog-forming volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, soot, and greenhouse gases.

Emissions laws help in countering these toxins, but Maryland is not even among the top 20 cleanest states: It is currently tied for 22nd with South Carolina and Tennessee. Here is how a single vehicle affects the bigger picture:

1. Emissions Laws Help Preserve Health and the Environment

Regulations help fight poor air and water quality, which endangers health for residents across the state. The effects of breathing issues, heart problems, and other potentially fatal conditions – particularly in the young and elderly – can be minimized by following emissions laws.

2. Emissions Cost America a Fortune

Greenpeace research revealed that harmful emissions drain the U.S. budget of $600 billion a year. This staggering loss comes partially through cleanup efforts and partially through the lost labor of emissions-affected workers (whose health conditions also mean higher health and auto insurance rates).

3. Emissions Hurt Neighboring Regions

vehicle exhaust pipe

Emissions don’t recognize state boundaries. The pollution one state produces directly threatens the well-being of neighboring states as well as the ecosystems they share.

Failure to observe emissions laws can have a devastating effect that goes far beyond the offending party. Every driver in Maryland has a duty to themselves and their community to keep their vehicle up to spec by taking a few simple steps.

Virtually every resident of Maryland can play a part in making our state cleaner, and often the ways to do it aren’t difficult. In other words, keeping Maryland and your record clean is a simple process. These best practices will help you obey the rules and all of Maryland’s emissions laws:

5 Ways to Obey Emissions Laws

1. Make Clean Air Part of Your Business

car emissions inspection

The EPA operates the CAA Compliance Assistance Program, which helps businesses stay in line with emissions law. This is an essential guide if your organization has either standing emissions sources or several vehicles on the road in Maryland.

2. Know Your Responsibilities as a Resident

The Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) operates the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program. Drivers can use this to find resources on every aspect of emissions testing, from proper maintenance to what comes next if a car fails the test. These Maryland’s emissions laws and rules also apply to new Maryland residents, so don’t delay.

3. Remember the 2-Year Time Limit

Maryland drivers are typically allowed two years between emissions inspections. This may differ based on vehicle type; hybrid vehicles are permitted a three-year period, for example. The state gives drivers plenty of time to prepare, regardless of model, by alerting them eight weeks before their vehicle registration renewal date.

4. Exemptions, Waivers, and Extensions Apply

Not everyone can make it to the garage on time, and the laws don’t apply equally in every case. One important distinction is that vehicles running solely on diesel are exempt from emissions laws, as opposed to their gas-powered counterparts. Drivers can check out this resource to see how their age, vehicle weight, and other factors affect their legal responsibilities.

5. Follow MVA Tips to Help Pass Emissions Tests

Car Emission Testing equipment

Allow extra time for any necessary vehicle repairs – such as fixing fans and belts, tire pressure, and transmission – before undergoing an emissions inspection. The “check engine” light being on is a sure way to fail, as are ignoring on-board diagnostic trouble codes and running on dirty oil. Drivers should contact the MVA for a comprehensive list on emissions test preparation.

All this responsibility boils down to one very affordable step. Maryland residents pay only $14 for an emissions inspection, with the first retest being free. Further inspection costs are equally low when obeying the rules. Failure to comply is a different matter and will be looked on severely by the EPA. 

Common Pitfalls of Disobeying Maryland’s Emissions Laws

Maryland is serious about wanting to provide cleaner air for its residents and has set its penalties accordingly. The state’s emissions laws are a serious matter that carry heavy consequences for non compliant individuals and businesses. Consider the following before deciding whether the rules should apply to you:

Hidden Costs

Poor emissions care only decreases the performance of your vehicle, increasing repair bills and insurance rates while endangering your safety.

Steep Fines and Penalties

Emissions laws violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $45,268 per noncompliant vehicle or engine, $4,527 per tampering event or sale of defeat device, and $45,268 per day for reporting and record-keeping violations. Read these enforcement resolutions for some real-world examples.

Need to Stay Current

“I’ll skip this one. My vehicle was good last time it was checked” is no guarantee of compliance. Emissions regulations are subject to ongoing changes, like any law, making it vital to stay current through regular inspections.

Illegal Vehicles Aren’t an Excuse

Illegal imports may seem like a way around domestic emissions law, but they’re direct violations of the CAA.

Any attempt to ignore or circumvent emissions laws only hurts you and the world around you. Obeying the law costs relatively little, and you can contact the professionals for further advice on meeting emissions requirements and keeping Maryland safe.

Additional Facts About Vehicle Emission Standards in the State of Maryland

  • Vehicles in Maryland must meet emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The state of Maryland has adopted similar emission standards to the national standard.
  • Maryland requires all gasoline-powered vehicles that are newer than 1996 and diesel-powered vehicles that are newer than 2007 to pass an annual emissions test.
  • All vehicles registered in Maryland must pass a vehicle safety inspection every two years, which includes an emissions test.
  • Emission tests are issued from a certified testing station, and can only be obtained from an authorized facility that is registered with the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).
  • Vehicles owned by people who live in areas designated as nonattainment for air pollution cannot receive waivers or exemptions from emissions testing.
  • If your vehicle emits excessive vehicle exhaust, you may be required to have it fixed prior to passing the test.
  • The fee for an emissions test varies depending on the make and model of the vehicle, but typically ranges between $15 and $20 USD.
  • There are several alternative fuel types approved by Maryland law, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • Electric vehicles are exempt from emissions testing requirements in the state of Maryland.

Need Your Car Towed to an Emissions Testing Center?

Geyers Towing & Transport is your go-to if you need your vehicle transported for emissions testing or other maintenance. We have been providing 24/7 emergency roadside assistance and other towing solutions in the Maryland area since 1993. Contact Geyers Towing with any questions and for all your towing and transport service needs.s

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