Activist runs exhaustive fight against E-check


John Griffith
Plain Dealer Special Projects Editor


- Amid the cardboard boxes, computer equipment and documents cluttering the second-floor back bedroom in the only red-and-white house on Cuyahoga St. in Kent is the headquarters of the Coalition Against Testing.

Leader of this band of 300 anti-E-check Ohioans and owner of the house is Keith Eckmeyer, a 44-year-old retiree.

It all began in 1995, he says, after he borrowed a friend's phone and called the E-check office. He says he asked 10 questions about the program, wrote down the answers, handed the phone to his friend and asked him to do the same thing. He claims none of the answers matched.

Thus began Eckmeyer's six-year battle with legislators, state agencies and others over a vehicle-emissions testing program that some say doesn't do much for cleaner air. His nonprofit organization filed a class-action lawsuit in Summit County challenging the program's legality, and members have bombarded lawmakers and bureaucrats with letters and calls.

The fanatical, in-your-face activist recently was asked to leave an E-check committee meeting in Columbus after he argued with an official who, according to Eckmeyer, didn't know how many counties were in the program.

It's all part of his total dedication to getting rid of a program he considers a waste of money. "First of all, anybody who can prove to me that any form of emissions testing on automobiles has done anything to maintain air quality, I want to see it," he said.

Eckmeyer has volumes of court records, property records, testing records, environmental studies, correspondence with government officials and bureaucrats, petitions and other E-check paraphernalia. "You ought to see my basement," he says, climbing the stairs to the hot, un-air-conditioned bedroom.

CAT also has a Web site: Somewhat militant comments are peppered throughout reproductions of government documents or published comments by various officials.

But Eckmeyer understands why government officials jumped on the E-check train: They believed they were doing the right thing after the feds dangled the threat of losing federal dollars.

"Think of this," he said. "Let's say they did cut off $524 [million] to $525 million to [Cuyahoga], Lake, Lorain, Geauga, Portage, Summit and Medina. What would we be doing right now to fix our roads for the last five years? You wouldn't see any orange barrels, but you'd have holes 15 feet in diameter we'd have to be running through."


Contact John Griffith at:, 216-999-4407