ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers will be called on this year to approve changes inthe automobile-exhaust program that will bring six more rural counties into the program.
The move -- opposed by a Carroll senator -- likely will be unpopular in the counties on the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland and Western Maryland that will be added. But the governor and the legislature don't have much choice.
The law now applies to Carroll, Montgomery, Prince George's, AnneArundel, Howard, Harford and Baltimore counties and the city of Baltimore.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already said that Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Queen Anne's and Washington counties must test cars. A seventh, Allegany County, may be added.
Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said he doesn't think the expansion will be approved this year.
"However, the areas that have it have all the votes to get us into the program," Smelser said.
Two other changes are expected this year that will affect drivers in areas already covered by the testing program.
The EPAprobably will require all cars built after 1968 to be tested. The cutoff date is now 1977.
Drivers whose cars fail the test will be able to get a waiver and continue driving if they spend up to $450 on repairs. The waiver is granted now to drivers who spend $75 on repairs.
Maryland would lose all federal highway funds if it ignores the EPA mandate, Marshall Rickert, state motor vehicle administrator, said Wednesday.
The law that established the state program expires this year. Gov. William Donald Schaefer will introduce legislation to extend it as long as the federal government requires testing.