(Memphis) Despite being recently told otherwise, News Channel 3 has learned that the state of Tennessee has not decided whether or not to take over vehicle emissions testing in Memphis.
Meg Lockhart, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said, “No decision has been made on what, if any action, the state may take if the matter is not resolved locally.”
Lockhart added, “We understand that discussions at the local level continued last week. We have not been directly involved in those discussions.”
Staff members from both the city and county governments have confirmed the dialogue is indeed still open, but their positions have not changed.
The Memphis city council voted twice to stop funding emissions testing, and the county mayor’s office has said the county will not pay for the testing either.
“Bad air doesn't know political boundaries, why should the citizens of the city of Memphis be the only ones to bear the cost, when really it is everybody's problem?” said George Little, the city of Memphis chief administrative officer.
County Mayor Mark Luttrell declined to comment for this story, saying the decision is now with the state.
Little also said, “the ball is in [the state’s] court.”
However, Lockhart’s tone indicated the state hopes the city and county will work something out.
This position from the state shocked certain council members, who believed the deal was done.
City leaders told News Channel 3 that if local entities cannot come up with a funding solution, that the responsibility falls on the state.
But Lockhart said it is not the state’s responsibility to pay for testing.
“I believe funding comes from the city and the county at this juncture. Again, they run their air program there locally,” she said.
In the meantime, Little said that the city of Memphis staff has prepared $2.8 million for emissions testing in next year’s budget, just in case they are left holding the bag.
But such an appropriation must be approved by the council, who has so far made it clear they do not want to use the city’s funds.
If emissions testing does not continue, Little said there could be new restrictions placed on “smokestack” industries to monitor pollution by businesses.
Ultimately, failure to comply with EPA air quality measures could result in sanctions, and the loss of federal highway funds.