An attorney general’s opinion says the state has authority to set up a vehicle emissions testing program in Shelby County and charge motorists a fee to pay for it, reports the Commercial Appeal. But the opinion says the state probably could not impose a countywide fee to pay for vehicle testing only in the City of Memphis, as it suggests was being considered by state officials.
Atty. Gen. Robert E. Cooper’s advisory opinion comes after Memphis ended its vehicle inspection program Friday.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is “looking at all options” for a new inspection program in the Memphis area to keep the state in compliance with federal air pollution laws, TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said after the opinion’s public release Tuesday.
“But we are hopeful that the local air program will meet its obligation to have a vehicle inspection program as previously committed to both the state and to EPA that they would do.”
Memphis was the only one of Tennessee’s major urban areas with vehicle emissions testing where the inspections were limited only to residents of the central city. The testing programs are countywide in Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties.
Gov. Bill Haslam has decided that state government will not take over the Memphis/Shelby County vehicle inspection program or provide any money to help run it, according to the Commercial Appeal. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton notified City Council members of the governor’s decision in a memo. That message, Wharton wrote in the memo, came from Mark Cate, Haslam’s gubernatorial chief of staff, in a conference call that also included Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
Memphis has voted to stop funding vehicle emissions and inspections programs in a push to force countywide if not region-wide testing to meet air quality standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ever since emissions testing began some 30 years ago, only Memphis motorists have been required to undergo the process — even though the entire county is now classified by the EPA as violating federal standards for ozone pollution.
…The city has been spending some $2.7 million a year on testing, and that funding ends on July 1. Wharton said he and Luttrell will work on a solution, and it appears they may have an 18-month window to do show a “good-faith effort” toward compliance.
…In Wharton’s memo, he spells out the loss of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to the city, the county and to suburban municipalities as well.
Council member Lee Harris said Thursday the decision is part of a political “soap opera” in which the governor was caught in the crosscurrents between Memphis, which has historically required auto inspections, and state legislators representing parts of Shelby County outside of Memphis, which have not required auto inspections.
“The reason the governor reached that decision is clearly political,” said Harris, who led the efforts to drop auto inspections in the city on grounds that city residents are having to carry the entire burden of meeting EPA pollution standards even though the suburbs contribute to the same pollution.
“Instead of the governor showing some leadership, he said, ‘Look, I’m just going to punt the ball.’ It’s really a soap opera now. It’s hard to believe that somebody elected to office would just cave. It’s really discouraging,” Harris said
State officials have quietly pulled the plug on an effort to replace a complex by Solid Savings” computer system used to track vehicles in Tennessee, after spending more than a decade and at least $40 million on development, reports Chas Sisk. The Department of Revenue confirmed this month that it has ended an ambitious project called the Title and Registration User’s System of Tennessee, or TRUST, after determining that it would never reach its goal of replacing the state’s aging mainframe-based system.
The project, which would have created a new network linking the offices of all 95 county clerks in Tennessee, is one of several information technology overhauls launched by the state in recent years, only to run aground.
Although largely hidden from public view, IT travails have been a common thread running through recent failures at state agencies, including problems at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
State officials caution against oversimplifying the situation. They note that many large IT projects undertaken by private corporations fail as well.
But Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has responded by overhauling the state’s approach to IT. Last month, 1,600 IT workers were asked to reapply for their jobs, and the state has dedicated $4 million to retraining this year alone.
Mark Bengel, the state’s chief information officer, said that many state workers in the fast-changing IT sector have let their skills fall behind — to the point where they no longer have the expertise needed to bid out projects or to supervise them once they were awarded.
“IT is changing so fast and becoming so complex,” Bengel said in an interview last week. “Staffing hasn’t kept up.”
The TRUST project did achieve some of its goals. Car owners in most counties can renew their registrations online, and a complicated system that forced county clerks to memorize dozens of codes has been replaced with easier-to-use menus.
But the project hasn’t accomplished its main goal: replacing the state’s 25-year-old mainframe with a modern system of interconnected computers. Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts instead decided to try to keep the mainframe working for a few more years, and then start a new project once the IT sector evolves further.
…The TRUST project spans three administrations, starting at the end of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s, running throughout Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s and ending more than a year into Haslam’s. The project has passed between two sets of government agencies and has gone through a major restart.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One of the sport utility vehicles assigned to the governor’s office is getting more than $10,000 in repairs after getting caught on a security gate at the state Capitol.
Surveillance video obtained by The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/10vdZ1u ) shows the vehicle carrying Gov. Bill Haslam passing safely through the gate, but a GMC Denali trailing the governor’s car didn’t make it. Security pillars rose up from the pavement, lifting the SUV slightly off the ground and making it swerve.
The accident on May 7 damaged the rear suspension of the Denali, but caused no injuries.
The governor’s entourage was returning to the Capitol after a bill-signing ceremony in Clarksville and a speech at a bookstore in Nashville.
News release from Department of Economic and Community Development:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that Chevrolet Volt purchasers are now eligible for the state’s $2,500 electric vehicle (EV) rebate. The rebate requires that consumers qualify for and participate in The EV Project, a national study on EV use and charging infrastructure deployment.
The EV Project will provide participants with a free Blink® 240V networked charge station and a credit of up to $1,200 towards its installation. To be eligible, Tennessee residents must sign an EV Project participant agreement, purchase the Volt, take delivery of the car, and have SPX Corporation install their Blink charge station by June 30, 2012. Volt owners who have already purchased and taken delivery of their vehicles are still eligible for the rebate if they are accepted into The EV Project. Consumers should contact the original selling dealer to inquire about retroactive rebates.
“The state’s $2,500 electric vehicle rebate provides an extra incentive to those who want to purchase a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle,” Molly Cripps, director of the ECD Energy Division, said. “We’ve had a great deal of interest from Tennessee consumers regarding the Volt, and I am pleased it is now eligible for rebates.”
“We applaud the state of Tennessee for adding the Volt to the EV rebate program,” stated Don Karner, president of ECOtality North America. “Tennessee is a vital market for The EV Project. The addition of the Volt into the rebate program ensures we will further our efforts to gather invaluable data from our already rich infrastructure in the Tennessee market.”
The primary goal of The EV Project is to collect, analyze and report on the use of electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support them. This information includes data regarding the energy used, along with time and duration of charger use. No personal information is shared or included in the analyzed data. Participants must maintain an in-home Internet connection to transmit the data until The EV Project concludes on April 30, 2013.
In September of 2010, the state of Tennessee announced that $2.5 million had been budgeted for the electric vehicle rebate program, enabling the first 1,000 Tennessee residents who purchase either a Chevrolet Volt or Nissan LEAF SL, the opportunity to participate in The EV Project and receive a $2,500 rebate. The state rebate is in addition to a federal tax rebate of up to $7,500.
ECOtality is the project manager of The EV Project and will oversee the installation of commercial and residential charging stations in 18 major cities and metropolitan areas in six states and the District of Columbia. The project will provide an EV infrastructure to support the deployment of EVs in these key markets. The project is a public-private partnership, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy through a federal stimulus grant and made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
For more information on the state’s EV rebate program, please visit tn.gov/ecd/CD_energy_electric_vehicle_rebates.html. More information on The EV Project is available at TheEVProject.com.
About ECOtality, Inc.
ECOtality, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECTY), headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies. Through innovation, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships, ECOtality accelerates the market applicability of advanced electric technologies to replace carbon-based fuels. For more information about ECOtality, Inc., please visit www.ecotality.com.