The AirCheck Texas Repair and Replacement Assistance Program has benefited owners of almost 900 vehicles in Ellis County since its implementation here in May 2003.

A little more than two years later, available figures indicate 1,071 applications were made for assistance, with 822 vehicles diagnosed and repaired through the program.

An additional 42 vehicles were retired and replaced by their owners as a result of the funding they received.

The program, which is administered through the North Central Texas Council of Governments, is designed to help vehicle owners comply with emissions standards.

The program seeks to reduce ozone-forming pollutants created by on-road motor vehicles and addresses the highest polluting vehicles by providing a financial incentive for vehicle owners.

Besides Ellis County, vehicle owners in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant counties may be eligible for assistance if their vehicle fails the mandatory emissions inspection test and if they meet financial eligibility criteria, according to information on the NCTCOG Web site.

The state Legislature recently broadened the eligibility criteria, which means the program should see even more participation.

“The program will be modified by Senate Bill 12, which will increase the income level that is eligible from 200 percent to 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines,” said Jason Brown, air quality operations coordinator at NCTCOG. “It will also increase the vehicle replacement incentive amount.”

Brown said he expects the changes to be adopted and implemented in early to late November.

As an example under the new guidelines, a family of four with an annual income of $61,950 will now be eligible. Information from NCTCOG indicates the replacement vehicle amount will increase from $1,000 to $3,000 for cars made in the past three years or trucks released in the past two. New hybrids are eligible for up to $3,500 from the program.

Data collected through the program indicates up to 70-percent reductions in emissions have been made for some of the vehicles involved in the repair program.

“We see that as a great example of the benefits of the program,” Brown said, reporting that the facilities recognized by the program to do repairs have become increasingly knowledgeable on how to diagnose and fix vehicles with emission problems.

The program also has been able to determine that the repairs are being sustained, Brown said, noting the majority of the repaired vehicles continue to pass testing in subsequent years.

For more information on the AirCheck program, contact Brown at (817) 704-2514 or e-mail jbrown@nctcog.org.

NCTCOG offers several other programs relating to air quality that involve public participation. Among those programs are:

Smoking vehicle

program

NCTCOG oversees the Regional Smoking Vehicle Program for the area. People who see a vehicle with excessive emissions can make a report by several means.

Through a special arrangement with cellular telephone providers, cell phone users can dial #SMOKE (#76653) to be connected to the reporting site. People also can call (817) 704-2522 or make a report online at www.smokingvehicle.net.

When the program is notified of the vehicle, a letter is sent to the registered vehicle owner advising him or her to have the vehicle checked and to make necessary repairs.

The program received 2,071 reports of smoking vehicles from Feb. 15-June 30, with 20 of those registered to Ellis County owners.

Lunch bag program

This is the second year NCTCOG is conducting its Ozone Season Lunch Bag Program, with about 800 people participating.

Participants - who receive a free lunch bag - pledge to take their lunch to work on ozone days. The program is available to people without e-mail, who are asked to watch local weather broadcasts to stay informed.

For more information, call Pamela Burns at (817) 704-2510 or e-mail pburns@nctcog.org.

Upcoming workshop

The DFW Clean Cities Coalition will host a workshop, “Beyond Regulations: Greening Regulated Fleets,” on Aug. 15 at NCTCOG offices in Arlington.

Geared toward improving the environmental impact of auto fleets, the workshop will cover topics including technology, fuels, financial opportunities and policies, according to a recent NCTCOG newsletter.

For more information, call Ryan Mooney at (817) 704-2506 or e-mail rmooney@nctcog.org.

On the Internet:

www.nctcog.org/trans/

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com