Coalition challenges proposed vehicle scrappage program

Published March 1, 2000

The Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), representing companies in the automotive parts, repair, and maintenance industries, has challenged as “unproven” a car/truck scrappage program proposed by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).

The TNRCC proposal resurrects a scrappage program repealed in 1998. The plan suffered from lack of interest among Texas motorists and opposition from the independent repair industry and taxpayers who rejected the use of tax dollars to pay for scrapped vehicles. A similar provision in the 1994 National Highway bill was killed by nationwide opposition to vehicle scrappage programs.

According to CARE, TNRCC’s proposed resurrection of the program is aimed at appeasing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with “paper reductions” in air pollution in Texas’s nonattainment areas.

The current proposal would require each affected locality–among them El Paso, Austin, Beaumont, Houston, Galveston, and Dallas/Ft. Worth–to fund a program offering motorists money to scrap their vehicles. Each locality will determine how it will have the cars and trucks scrapped, how much it will pay the motorists, and through what funding source it will raise the revenues to do so.

TNRCC contends motorists will use the money to purchase a new, or almost new, vehicle. The scrappage proposal claims to target gross-polluting vehicles, which tend to be older vehicles.

According to CARE, however, a vehicle’s age has little or no bearing on its pollution status. For example, it contends, 10 percent of the vehicles across all model years cause 50 percent of the pollution. Even a new car, if not properly maintained and repaired, will pollute. CARE further contends that most of the 10 percent gross-polluting vehicles need only minor repairs and maintenance, such as tune-ups, to bring them up to standards.

Scrappage program opponents warn the proposal places an unfair burden on the shoulders of motorists who can least afford it. Low- and fixed-income individuals are not likely to be able to turn a few hundred dollars–what they’re likely to get through the scrappage program–into a new or newer vehicle. CARE warns that scrappage programs encourage lower-income motorists to become saddled with debt by incurring monthly car payments and higher insurance premiums.

CARE encouraged the TNRCC to look to neighboring Arizona for a more effective program aimed more squarely at gross-polluting vehicles.

“If the TNRCC wishes to work with Texans, rather than the U.S. EPA, to develop a rational, pro-environment, pro-motoring consumer alternative to scrappage, then a working model is already underway in Arizona,” noted Sandy Bass-Cors, CARE executive director.

Arizona repealed its vehicle scrappage program and passed a “Repair, Retrofit & Upgrade” program to repair and maintain vehicles while allowing lower-income motorists to keep their affordable transportation. The state appropriated funds for targeted counties, focusing its efforts on vehicles at least 12 years old.

Warned Bass-Cors, “the TNRCC Vehicle Scrappage Program will earn Texas nothing more than paper reductions in pollution, while foisting an inefficient program on the backs of hard-working, tax-paying Texas motorists.

“Although the new TNRCC car/truck scrappage program will not require the state to fully purchase each vehicle from the motorists, Texas tax dollars will be used because TNRCC will utilize its staff to oversee this government-endorsed burden,” she concluded.

According to Bass-Cors, CARE’s member companies have nearly 2,000 locations in Texas to service and repair vehicles. CARE counts among its members such high-profile auto aftermarket firms as NAPA, Midas, CARQUEST, AutoZone, Advance Auto, and O’Reilly’s.