On-Road Emissions Program FAQ

Air Check Virginia’s On-Road Emissions (ORE) Program, sometimes also called a “Remote Sensing” program, follows two pilot studies and several years of preparation. The General Assembly desired a program that could observe a large volume of vehicles with as little inconvenience to the citizens of Virginia as possible. The program is designed to have vehicles with high emissions levels repaired on a timely basis instead of waiting until the next inspection cycle.  The ORE program complements the vehicle emissions inspection program that is already operating in the Northern Virginia Region, helping to meet requirements for clean air quality set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the On-Road Emissions Program?

The On-Road Emissions Program consists of equipment that directs an infrared and ultra violet beam across one lane of traffic to measure exhaust pollutants of vehicles as they drive by. Pollutants that are measured are hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitric oxide. You can click here to learn more about each pollutant.  As the vehicle passes the equipment, a camera takes a picture of the vehicle’s license plate while the measurements are taken of the vehicle’s exhaust. This process allows a large number of vehicles to be observed with little or no inconvenience to the vehicle operator.

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Why is it needed?

The On-Road Emissions (ORE) program helps DEQ determine progress toward ambient air quality standards set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Through a determination made by remote sensing equipment, the ORE Program also identifies individual vehicles that are detected to be emitting high levels of harmful pollutants. By identifying these “high emitters” now, instead of waiting until the next scheduled emissions inspection (which could be many months away), repairs can be made to reduce the levels of harmful pollutants sooner, rather than later.  An added benefit to early recognition and repair of emissions problems is often improved fuel economy.  Timely repairs may also help to prevent more expensive repairs later.

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What vehicles are subject to the Northern Virginia On-Road Emissions program?

  • Most 1968 and newer model year gasoline powered vehicles with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less.
  • Virginia registered vehicles that are primarily operated within and through the Northern Virginia area, regardless of registration address or garage location.

Some vehicles, such as motorcycles, antique vehicles, electric vehicles, some special fuel vehicles, and some diesel powered vehicles may be exempted.

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What happens to polluting vehicles?

If a vehicle is determined by remote sensing equipment to be emitting excessive levels of harmful pollutants, a Notice of Violation may be sent to the registered owner of that vehicle explaining the exceedance(s).

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What does the Notice of Violation mean?

You have received a Notice of Violation (Notice) of Exhaust Emissions Standards for Remote Sensing from DEQ showing a determination by remote sensing equipment that your vehicle is emitting excessive pollution.

Within 30 days of the date of this Notice, your vehicle must have either passed an emissions inspection or received an emissions inspection waiver. If the vehicle is equipped with an on-board diagnostic (OBDII) system, the vehicle must pass both types of tests (OBDII and exhaust emissions). The first step in this process is to present the vehicle to an emissions inspection station for an emissions inspection 'Confirmation Test.' This emissions inspection will determine if the vehicle is actually in need of emissions repair. The emissions inspection station is allowed to charge the standard initial emissions inspection fee of $28 for the confirmation test.

In order to meet the requirements of the Notice, the vehicle must pass the emissions inspection or receive an emissions inspection waiver within 30 days of the Notice. If you don't meet this deadline, you may be required to pay the civil charge listed on the Notice.

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What is a Confirmation Test?

The Confirmation Test is an emissions inspection performed at a permitted Emissions Inspection Station in response to the Notice.  The Confirmation Test either confirms that your vehicle is failing emissions standards, thereby “confirming” the remote sensing equipment determination, or that your vehicle passes the emissions inspection.   The emissions inspection station is allowed to charge the standard initial emissions inspection fee of $28 for the confirmation test. 

Note:  You must bring the Notice with you to the emissions inspection station and show it to the inspector or other person(s) responsible for emissions inspections prior to the start of the emissions inspection.

If the vehicle passes at this inspection station, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your vehicle is running clean all the time.  There may be problems that occur under conditions different than those of the standard emissions inspection procedure.  It is possible that in the future your vehicle could be determined by remote sensing equipment to have exceeded On-Road Sensing standards if your vehicle isn’t operating efficiently under all driving conditions. 

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Where do I get the Confirmation Test performed?

The Confirmation Test can be performed by any of the many permitted emissions inspection stations available to the public in the Northern Virginia area. These facilities include service stations, repair shops, and automobile dealerships. Every emissions inspection station has a poster with a white background and green lettering on the outside of the building indicating 'Emissions Inspection Station'. (Click here to view that poster)

Inspection stations are required to be open for inspections for an eight hour period Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Many stations also have weekend and evening hours. It is recommended that you call your chosen station in advance to verify their hours of operation before visiting that station.

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What should I bring to the Confirmation Test?

You must bring the Notice you received in the mail, as well as the vehicle identified in the Notice, to the emissions inspection station.  You must show the Notice to the emissions inspector or other person(s) responsible, such as a service writer or a manager, to have your car inspected.  When you leave the inspection station after the test has been completed, remember to take your Notice with you.

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What if my vehicle fails the Confirmation Test?

Vehicles that fail the initial Confirmation Test are eligible for one free retest at the original station within 14 calendar days of the initial Confirmation Test.

Follow this link to learn more about emissions inspection failures, the repair process, and emissions inspection waiver information.

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Is financial assistance available?

Yes, but only for emissions related repairs involving a Notice of Violation due to the On-Road Emissions (ORE) Program. Also, vehicle owners must be in compliance with all ORE program requirements. To request financial assistance, you must fill out the Application for Financial Assistance form (see below) and provide all required documentation. In order to qualify, your combined household family income must be equal to or less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Income level. The household family income levels are found on the Application for Financial Assistance form included with The Notice. 

Important: The vehicle must have been repaired at a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility (CRF), and the repairs must have been performed or supervised by a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Technician (CRT). Also, you must have paid for the repairs. The vehicle must also have a “pass” or “waiver” inspection report from the repairs. The actual amount of assistance will be 50% of the amount paid for Certified Emissions-related repairs, subject to a minimum $100 co-pay taken from the total repair expenditure. The maximum amount of repair assistance is also limited to 50% of the current waiver amount, and subject to a $25.00 benefit minimum. Subject to the conditions above, the benefit amount is generally the lesser of the total emissions repair less the $100 co-pay, or 50% of the total emissions expenditure. Note that repair assistance is not guaranteed, and is limited to available funding.

Example 1:  Repair costs of $500 x 50% = $250. The applicant will have paid at least the $100 co-pay in this case; the amount is less than the maximum and more than the minimum, so $250 is the amount to be paid. 

Example 2:  Repair costs of $125 x 50% = $62.50. The $100 co-pay must be paid, leaving $25 which is the minimum payable, so $25 is the amount to be paid.

Example 3:  Repair costs of $110 x 50% = $55. The applicant must pay at least $100, leaving only $10 which is less than the minimum.  No payment is made in this case.

Remember that qualifying emissions related repairs means only those repairs that are performed in response to an ORE Confirmation Test failure, are performed or supervised and approved by a Certified Emissions Repair Technician at a Certified Emissions Repair Facility.

Additionally, repair for a tampered emissions component(s), for visible smoke or for repairs that are required to make the vehicle inspection ready are not eligible for assistance.

Application for Financial Assistance form (pdf format)

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What if I miss the Notice of Violation deadline?

If you do not obtain a pass or a waiver by the deadline stated on the Notice, the civil charge listed in the Notice will become due. 

DEQ recommends that you contact us immediately if you cannot meet the deadline.  Failure to respond to the Notice or failure to pay the civil charge could lead to further enforcement and/or collection action.  Payment of the civil charge does not release you from the requirement to obtain a pass or a waiver. The vehicle still must either pass or if it continues to fail, obtain an emissions inspection waiver. Another Notice could be sent to you if the vehicle continues to be observed emitting high levels of tailpipe emissions.

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How do I pay the Civil Charge?

You must include a copy of the Notice along with your check or money order payable to:

Treasurer of Virginia

Send it to:

Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1104
Richmond, Va. 23218

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What if I disagree with the Notice of Violation?

If you have questions or concerns about program results or about a Notice of Violation of Exhaust Emissions Standards for Remote Sensing, please contact DEQ.  See contact information.

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Who can I contact for more information about the On-Road Emissions Program?

Click to view our Contact Information page.

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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