A bill that would require new cars sold in Maryland to be equipped with the tougher anti-pollution devices called for in California appears to be in serious trouble in a state Senate committee.
The bill does not have overwhelming support among members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and their chairman yesterday predicted that the measure would fail on a close vote.
The bill "spoils free enterprise" and "isolates Maryland" by applying tough vehicle emission standards that would not affect cars and trucks sold in neighboring states, said the chairman, Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Eastern Shore.
"Maryland's such a small island and we can't be isolationist," Baker said.
The committee vice chairman, Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Balto. Co., agrees.
"I don't think it should pass at this late date, without all the information," Stone said.
The bill, which the House of Delegates approved March 22, came before the senators too late in the 90-day session to allow them time to study it fully, he said. The General Assembly adjourns Monday.
The bill would require new cars sold here to meet California auto emission standards, which are more stringent than those set by the new federal Clean Air Act.
If the bill passes, Maryland would put manufacturers on notice to begin in two years supplying cleaner vehicles to the state.
The program would be phased in over a period of years.
State environmental officials said the California emissions rules could reduce smog-causing pollution from cars and trucks by 58 percent by the year 2007, when the Baltimore area must comply with federal air pollution limits.
The measure would add between $70 and $170 to the cost of new cars sold in Maryland, either for improved pollution control equipment or making changes in how the engines burn fuel.
In later years, however, the additional costs could rise to $450 and beyond, according to the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, which opposes the bill.
Opponents say the bill could put Maryland car dealers at a disadvantage by impeding their ability to sell or transfer new cars and trucks to nearby states that have not adopted the strict California standards.
They also say that such a program should be implemented on a federal or regional basis.
The chief sponsor, Del. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, said the bill would help Maryland avoid harsh sanctions that could be imposed if the state fails to meet federal clean air standards. "The sanctions that come into play under the federal Clean Air Act for failing to meet the standards are Draconian," Frosh said.
For example, the state could lose federal funds and be forced to adopt very strict controls on emissions from industries, businesses and farms if it does not improve air quality, supporters of the bill say.