CLEVELAND — Doretha Waldon-Jones is just like dozens of Northeast Ohio vehicle owners who are faced with E-Check related auto repairs every week.
Waldon-Jones said she had to pay more than $300 dollars just so her 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee could pass E-Check, allowing her to get new stickers for her Ohio license plates.
But Waldon-Jones believes E-Check, which is still required in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Geauga, Medina, Portage and Summit counties, needs to be stopped, and unfairly places the responsibility for poor local air quality on low income drivers and not on local industry.
“People are already struggling with a lot of things and then you want to add on this E-Check, adding even more pressure on especially low-income people,” Waldon-Jones said. “You don’t charge the people in the factories for the smoke that's coming out of their chimneys, but you want to charge us for driving our automobiles throughout the city, it’s not fair."
Rep. Dr. Gail Pavliga, Ohio House District 75 (R) agrees with motorists like Waldon-Jones, that's why she authored House Resolution 56, asking the federal EPA to amend the Clean Air Act and thus allow Ohio to drop E-Check testing in the final seven counties in Ohio.
Pavliga said she is now trying to gather support from local federal lawmakers to change federal air standards and place more oversight on Northeast Ohio industries.
“A lot of people who are older drive older cars, and people who are younger, or are of lower income, have to buy used cars so they are unduly effected," Pavliga said. “In Northeast Ohio we have a lot of industry that needs to have a look taken at the emissions they're putting out, because that’s really going to be the true culprit. Our emissions in cars have come down in cars 74% in the last 30 years. It’s just an outdated program that costs people way too much money and it unduly targets our people here in Northeast Ohio and those of lower income and senior citizens."
Pavliga said running E-Check in seven Ohio counties is costing taxpayers more than $10 million annually, and believes the money could be put to better use elsewhere.
But Rep. Juanita Brent, Ohio House District 12 (D), disagrees, and believes Ohio E-Check should be maintained until Northeast Ohio air quality improves. Brent said lower air quality could be make it more difficult to attract new companies and jobs to Northeast Ohio, and will have a big impact on people with on-going health issues.
“Cars still definitely do have to be monitored," Brent said. “There are so many people who have asthma, bronchitis, so many types of upper respiratory diseases, so air quality is essential. This is going to jeopardize businesses coming to our state, why would we want to jeopardize jobs in a time of the pandemic when people need to work."
Will Robinson, General Manager with Terry’s North Coast Auto Repair agrees E-Check should be maintained for the time being. Robinson believes the EPA will not be amending the Clean Air Act anytime soon.
“It’s definitely a huge impact, you can see it when you go out and look downtown and you see the fog," Robinson said. "E-Check will most definitely be here for the next two years, and most likely for the long run, it’s not going to go anywhere. It all falls down to money, it’s an economic strain on taxpayers here in these seven counties."
Meanwhile, drivers who have vehicles that have failed E-Check, have a financial hardship, and have attempted to make repairs, can find out if they qualify for an E-Check waiver or extension on the Ohio EPA website.