NEW YORK -- When smog descends on the Eastern Seaboard, it respects neither state lines nor the boundaries of nature preserves and parks, fouling the air above cities, villages and even the coast of Maine.
Now, under a little-noticed section of the recently approved Federal Clean Air Act, 11 Atlantic Coast states and the District of Columbia metropolitan area must make special efforts to control smog under legislation intended to foster increased regional cooperation to combat environmental problems.
The federal legislation requires the states to make special efforts to control ozone, the main component of smog. Smog has proved to be one of the nation's most intractable air-pollution problems.
In addition, the legislation gives the region the opportunity to pressure the federal government to impose even more stringent pollution curbs than Congress has required.
High-level state environmental officials and federal regulators were to meet formally today in New York City for the first time to discuss how to proceed.
The regional approach is unusual because Congress has sought to force cooperation rather than making it voluntary, said S. William Becker, executive director of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators.
Such an arrangement invites conflict between states with the worst smog conditions and those with lesser problems. But some participants expressed confidence that a consensus could be reached. Also, industries may raise objections to stronger pollution rules requiring special action.
"This is a much newer issue in Virginia than in New York or Connecticut," said Elizabeth H. Haskell, Virginia's secretary of natural resources.
To address complaints by states like New York, Congress agreed to create an "ozone transport commission" that, by a majority vote of its members, can ask the federal government to compel members to take more restrictive pollution-control measures.
Congress structured the commission provision so federal regulators could not easily block the will of the majority of states in the region. The administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency must either approve the commission's action or develop a different approach.