Clean air law would force states to work together

October 24, 1990|By Peter Honey | Peter Honey,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Maryland is one of 13 Eastern states and regions, ranging from the Washington metropolitan area through Pennsylvania and New York to Maine, that will have to jointly coordinate air pollution controls if, as expected, the new Clean Air Act is passed by Congress this week and signed into law by President Bush.

A little-publicized section of the legislation would establish for the first time a legal link between pollution in areas as far apart as New York City and Maryland's Garrett County, or Baltimore and Kennebunkport, Maine.

The Northeast Ozone Transport Region, as it is called, would be coordinated by a 26-member commission consisting of two representatives from each state or region under direction of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would mean that the mid-Atlantic region, including each of Maryland's 23 counties and the Washington metro area, may come under increasing pressure from states to the north to impose tougher pollution controls than it would otherwise have been required to do under the general provisions of the impending act, said Bill Becker, who directs two associations of state pollution control officers.

The aim, EPA and Maryland officials said yesterday, would be to cut back on smog-forming emissions, mostly from automobiles, industrial plants and utilities that tend to waft northward from each state, beginning with commuter traffic in the Washington area.

New York state officials, for example, say that 40 percent of their metropolitan smog comes from sources as far south as Washington.

"The intent of this regulation is clearly to force areas to take action that they would otherwise not have taken to address problems in other areas, some of which could be hundreds of miles beyond their jurisdiction," said Mr. Becker.

Under the act, major cities have six years to reduce smog levels by 15 percent, and then 3 percent each year thereafter.

Mr. Becker said it was doubtful that the smoggiest cities in the region -- such as New York, Hartford, Conn., Baltimore and Boston -- would, on their own, be able to meet the pollution-abatement deadlines. New York, with the second-highest smog levels after Los Angeles, would have the most difficulty meeting smog limits.

"They will have to rely on upwind states, including Maryland and the Washington district, to take effective measures," he said.

"It's going to create a new environmental ethic, a new era of interstate cooperation in air pollution control," Mr. Becker said.

The director of air management in Maryland, George Ferreri, confirmed yesterday that there was concern about future conflicts of interest between states within the region, as well as possible discouragement of new industries. But he said the aim was to promote pollution control by consensus, not conflict.

For Marylanders and residents of greater Baltimore, he said "there are going to have to be lifestyle changes."

Commuters would be encouraged to make greater use of car pools and public transport. High-occupancy vehicle limitations would be introduced on major highways during rush hours, fume-containment devices would probably be installed on gasoline pumps and car owners would be subjected to more stringent vehicle maintenance programs.

The Clean Air Act would require Baltimore, as one of the country's nine smoggiest cities, to limit emission of smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides, as well as to phase in cleaner-burning oxygenated and reformulated gasolines over the next five to 10 years.

But its inclusion in the Northeast Ozone Transport Region, Mr. Ferreri said, could force the city to impose even tougher limits on industrial emissions and speed up the introduction of cleaner gasoline and more stringent tailpipe emission standards.

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