AUSTIN, Texas – Texas is getting so serious about taking older, polluting cars off the road that the state is offering to pay owners of old cars to purchase newer, cleaner-running vehicles.

The program to help low-income drivers replace old, polluting vehicles geared up last week to take and destroy vehicles that are 10 years old or older, or have failed state emissions tests. Qualifying owners can receive vouchers worth up to $3,500 to buy newer cars.

The state has up to $100 million available for the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine program, funded by vehicle-inspection fees in the Dallas and Houston areas.

Mobile emissions produced by old cars are the primary source of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, in Texas areas that do not meet federal ozone standards, known as non-attainment areas.

The polluting cars can qualify for vouchers if they are owned by residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, the Houston area or the Austin area – all non-attainment areas.

Vehicles that are turned in under the program will have their engines and emissions systems destroyed, so the cars cannot be sold again anywhere or return to the road to pollute Texas air.

“Today’s cars and trucks are significantly cleaner-running than their predecessors, up to 98 percent cleaner than those produced just 10 years ago,” said State Senator Kip Averitt, who wrote the bill that authorized the program.

“The Drive a Clean Machine program will partner with Texans willing to purchase a new car and get these old polluters off the road, providing a good return on taxpayers’ investment,” Averitt said.

“Mobile emissions are perhaps the most challenging part of the state’s air quality puzzle,” said Buddy Garcia, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ, which is sponsoring the program. “Removing these old cars and replacing them with cleaner vehicles is arguably one of the most effective ways to significantly improve our air quality.”

To qualify for the vehicle replacement vouchers, vehicles must be registered in one of the 16 counties in non-attainment or near-non-attainment for federal ozone standards.

“Over 20 percent of the vehicles in these counties are 10 years old or older,” said TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward. “For those Texans that qualify for the program, it can help them to drive a newer, more reliable car and do something positive about cleaning up the air at the same time.”

The Drive a Clean Machine program will provide the following incentives to qualifying families willing to purchase a new vehicle:

* $3,000 for a car, current model year or up to three model years old  * $3,000 for a truck, current model year or up to two model years old  * $3,500 for a hybrid vehicle, current or previous model year

To qualify, a household must make less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four with an annual net income up to $61,950 would meet the income guidelines.

“Texas has once again proven to be a leader in identifying ways to reduce emissions as an incentive rather than as an onerous mandate,” said TCEQ Commissioner Bryan Shaw. “Having a mechanism that will allow the state to remove sources of pollution that are preempted from state regulation will further ensure the success of our efforts to improve our air quality.”

The program will be administered by the North Central Texas Council of Governments in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; the Houston-Galveston Area Council in the Houston area; and Williamson and Travis counties in the Austin area. Those interested in using the program will apply for vouchers through these organizations, and qualified applicants will be awarded vouchers from these organizations.

Vehicles purchased must be on a list of qualifying vehicles and cost less than $25,000. They must weigh less than 10,000 lbs, be at least 10 years old and/or have failed an emissions test. The vehicles must be purchased at participating car dealers.

The 16 participating counties in non-attainment or near-non-attainment for federal ozone standards are Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area; Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris and Montgomery counties in the Houston area; and Travis and Williamson counties in the Austin area.

For a list of dealers, and for other qualifications and for more information go to or call 800-913-3321.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.