Maryland and eight other northeastern states took a major step toward reducing their intractable smog problem yesterday by vowing to go home and push for legislation requiring stringent controls on all new cars sold in those states.
Yesterday's decision commits Gov. William Donald Schaefer to introduce legislation that would reduce tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks by 58 percent within 15 years.
The states also agreed to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require cleaner-burning gasoline in areas that do not meet health standards now.
If the General Assembly adopts the measure this winter, Marylanders could be paying between $70 and $170 more per car by the end of the decade.
"We will take a major step toward attaining our goal of reaching the health standards in the latter part of the century," said Robert Perciasepe, Maryland's environmental chief and head of the Ozone Transport Commission, a panel of state environmental officials that voted in Philadelphia to press for the anti-smog standards.
Ozone, the major ingredient of smog, causes respiratory problems in children, older people and anyone with pulmonary or cardiac conditions. It also is believed to reduce lung capacity in healthy adults.
Last summer, air in the Baltimore metropolitan area violated federal standards for ozone on 17 days.
The new exhaust standards, adopted first in California in September 1990, have gathered acceptance over the past six months as state governments struggle with how to meet standards of the 1990 Clean Air Act.
Governors in Virginia and Pennsylvania had committed themselves earlier to attempting to get the California standards through their legislatures.
Governor Schaefer had not promised to introduce a bill. However, he backed a similar measure introduced by Delegate Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, last year that passed the House but faltered in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Mr. Schaefer's support of an anti-smog bill is expected to improve its chances of passing in the legislative term that begins in January, according to David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief legislative officer, and Mr. Frosh.
Fears raised by auto dealers last year that they would lose out-of-state business are weakened if surrounding states adopt the California standards.
The bill's greatest benefit, Mr. Frosh said, would be to people's health. Millions are spent each year treating people with breathing problems aggravated by ozone.
"It will cost something extra to people who buy new cars, but it will be cheaper . . . than treating an asthmatic kid for a lifetime or treating the emissions once they reach the Chesapeake Bay," he said. Nitrogen oxides, an element in ozone, are major bay pollutants.
However, even if the East Coast states adopt the new standards this coming year, no emissions reductions would be seen until the end of the decade, and the greatest benefits would not be seen until 2017 when most cars on the road would have the anti-smog equipment.