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Smoggy car owners to get PASS at cash

POSTED July 21, 2009 11:16 p.m.
Owners of vehicles that have a hard time passing those pesky smog checks may be eligible for a new program that offers cash to get repeat polluters off the road.
“We kind of recognized there are cars out there that don’t stay fixed,” said San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Air Quality Specialist Kevin Wing.
The District’s Polluting Automobile Scrap and Salvage program offers $1,000 cash or a $5,000 check towards a newer, cleaner car for those that submit their environmentally damaging vehicle for salvage.
The District established the PASS program about a year ago in efforts to reduce the emissions belched into the Valley’s already shoddy air by repeat smog check offenders. While owners of vehicles that fail smog checks are required to repair the emissions systems before the vehicle can be registered, many cars that fail once are doomed to fail again, according to District personnel.
“Once you pass the test you’re good for two years,” Wing said. “If it happens that the repair didn’t hold, you might be out there driving and emitting at a high level.”
PASS aims to catch those vehicles that are likely to fall out of compliance with smog regulations, targeting vehicles that may have been recently renewed but already belching smoke again. In order to qualify, vehicles must be continuously registered for the past 24 months, be in drivable condition and must have passed their most recent smog check.
After contacting program managers and verifying eligibility, drivers can receive $1,000 in cash or a $5,000 check made out to a car dealership that agrees to work with the program. That $5,000 can be used to purchase any 2006 or newer vehicle, or a 2003 or newer vehicle for qualified low-income participants.
Those who take advantage of PASS must agree to keep the cleaner vehicle they purchase for at least three years, maintain registration and insurance, and fill out annual reports for the District.
Whether a vehicle qualifies for $1,000 or $5,000 is up to the District’s discretion, and is based upon the level of pollutants emitted by the vehicle.
“The $5,000 pretty much relies on a past history of smog test failures,” said District Supervising Air Quality Specialist Brian Dodds. “If you haven’t really failed any smog tests, you’re not going to be eligible for the $5,000.”
Last year, the District sent out about 5,000 letters to area drivers who, according to smog records, have had repeated troubles hitting smog standards. However, very few owners took the District up on the offer, with only 109 drivers submitting their vehicles for testing and less than 50 actually receiving a payout.
Approximately 25,000 more letters will be sent out by the end of the week in hopes of enticing drivers to take a look into PASS this year. Additionally, anyone who feels that their vehicle may qualify for the program can call (877) 900-5865 and ask for details.
The District has approximately $2 million in funding for the vehicle buyback program, and expects to continue on with PASS until funding dries up.
For more information on the PASS program, call (877) 900-5865.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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