Armed with a new smog-fighting accord among northeastern states, Maryland officials plan to urge previously reluctant state legislators to adopt California's strict auto emission rules.
Environmental officials from Maryland, the District of Columbia and eight other northeastern states agreed yesterday in
Philadelphia to seek state legislation or regulations that would go beyond federal requirements and impose California's "low emission vehicle" standards on all new cars and trucks sold in their states.
Three states -- Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont -- abstained.
The members of the Northeast Ozone Transport Commission also agreed to expand the areas in their states where cleaner-burning "reformulated gasoline" must be sold, and they pledged to crack down on polluting cars with expanded vehicle inspection programs.
Robert Perciasepe, Maryland's environment secretary and chairman of the interstate panel, said the agreements should help Maryland and other northeastern states combat the smog, or ground-level ozone pollution, that plagues the region in summer.
"We help others, and others help us," he said. "That's the advantage of doing this in a regionally coordinated way."
The interstate agreement should strengthen efforts next year to get the General Assembly to require "California cars" in Maryland. Such legislation passed the House of Delegates this year, but died in a state Senate committee after the auto industry and car dealers objected.
Automakers contend that the California emission standards, which exceed new federal requirements called for in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, are tougher than what is needed in the rest of the country. They warn that tighter pollution controls will increase the cost of a new car by up to $1,000.
The oil industry also has urged delay, warning that a new less polluting gasoline formula under consideration as part of California's emission-control program may raise fuel costs without doing much for smog in other states.
Maryland officials, however, estimate that California emission requirements will add only $70 to $200 to the price of a new car or truck. And they say they do not plan to adopt California's fuel formula at this time.
Ozone -- which can irritate the lungs and cause chest pains, coughing and shortness of breath -- is formed when the hydrocarbons from car and truck exhaust and from many other sources mix under intense heat and sunlight in the atmosphere.
The states' action was praised by the American Lung Association, which noted that pollution controls called for by the Clean Air Act would not be enough for the states to meet the law's deadlines for meeting federal air-quality standards.
Under the Clean Air Act, states can either accept federal car emission standards or adopt California's even stricter rules. With California requirements, hydrocarbon emissions from cars and trucks in the Baltimore area will be 46 percent lower by 2007
than if the state stuck with federal standards, according to Michael Sullivan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Less polluting "reformulated gas" already is slated for sale at service stations in the Baltimore
metropolitan area by 1995, since the city is one of the nine smoggiest in the country. Maryland joined with other northeastern states in agreeing to "opt in" other areas where cleaner gas must be sold, such as the Washington suburbs and Cecil County.
Maryland also agreed with neighboring states to "enhance" its vehicle emission inspection and maintenance program starting next year. Biennial car and truck inspections are likely to be required in southern Maryland and parts of the Eastern Shore, and the emission tests are likely to become more stringent, officials say.
The agreements of the District and Virginia to take similar steps to curb car and truck pollution should help Maryland, since part ++ of the smog afflicting Baltimore is blown here from the Washington area. In turn, ozone produced here drifts northeastward to Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Perciasepe said Maryland has no choice but to seek strict controls on car and truck emissions, since they are responsible for 60 percent of the Baltimore area's smog. Factories are to blame for only about 10 percent, he said.
The state must submit a plan next fall to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for meeting federal ozone pollution standards Baltimore and the Washington suburbs.
Perciasepe said he did not know yet whether the measures agreed to by the northeastern states would be enough to eliminate Baltimore's air quality problems.
"It will probably take this and more to do it," he said.