Maryland's Secretary of the Environment, Bob Perciasepe, just this week signed on to a plan that promises to reduce the smog that covers the Baltimore area and cut the nitrogen which pollutes the Chesapeake Bay as well. And already the critics are droning. Too expensive. Ineffective. Unnecessary.
Nonsense. Perciasepe, along with officials from eight other states in the Northeast Ozone Transport Commission, simply agreed to push for legislation requiring stringent controls on emissions from new cars to help their states with federal Clean Air Act standards by the 2005 deadline. Though auto emissions are only one part of the air pollution problem, they are by far the largest part, accounting for 60 percent of the smog in the Baltimore area alone. Clearly, since pollution respects no geographical boundaries, a unilateral approach is pointless. If Maryland and the surrounding states establish stricter emission standards, not only will pollutants from cars and trucks be cut nearly in half by 2007 in this area, but the amount of nitrogen from air pollution that directly settles on the bay or washes into it from secondary sources will be dramatically reduced too.
Despite the logic of stringent emission controls, the state's auto industry last year derailed a bill to change the standards, citing the added cost to consumers and a competitive disadvantage. If cars in neighboring states, held to lesser standards, were available more cheaply, they charged, Maryland dealers would lose business. A regional approach obviously addresses that problem. As for the first concern, polls repeatedly show citizens are genuinely, and justifiably, worried about the deteriorating quality of the environment. The average $135 increase in the cost of a new car is a small price to pay for clean air and water.
Secretary Perciasepe has signed on to a sensible and workable plan for significantly reducing pollution. It would be absurd now for the General Assembly to decided that it can't be done. Or that it shouldn't.