Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was able to block the funding for 15 months, a study of I/M (inspection/maintenance) emissions-test effectiveness by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), authorized by Congress in October 1997, is under way at long last.

This raises the hope that the often acrimonious conflict between the states and the EPA over emissions testing of in-use vehicles will be replaced by scientifically sound, independently derived fact-based policies and decisions.

It is ironic that the first government request for NAS advisory services 136 years ago was for a report on weights, measures and coinage — and now, the most critical part of I/M is the question of how its effectiveness is measured.

WEVTU understands that aside from the selection of the I/M effectiveness study committee members, a search is in progress seeking the best available real-world measurement data; not linear measurement as in 1863, but measurement of actual emissions reductions achieved by I/M programs.

NAS says it will appoint a committee of about 10 neutral experts who will serve pro bono to oversee the study. NAS long ago established a carefully crafted procedure for assuring its studies are scientifically objective. NAS was formed in the middle of the last century in order to provide totally unbiased information and judgements. It answers to no one.

NAS's squeaky clean reputation and professionalism, carefully maintained for well over a century, will be welcomed by everyone touched by I/M and the EPA's often heavy hand.