Emissions-test plan called more equitable State wants to extend the program in rural areas

July 22, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The state's plan to expand auto emissions testing to six largely rural Maryland counties makes the program more equitable, say several former county politicians who waged an unsuccessful battle eight years ago to exempt Carroll.

But former Mount Airy Mayor Lewis C. Dixon, who joined the county commissioners in a suit against the state in 1984, said expanding the program "won't contribute to anything."

"There are things we can do with our money and effort that would be much more helpful to the environment than auto emissions testing," said the retired mechanical engineer.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has developed a tougher auto emissions testing program, which will require Maryland to begin testing cars in Frederick, Washington, Cecil, Queen Anne's, Charles and Calvert counties for excess emission of pollutants that cause smog.

The test also will be more sophisticated in detecting high levels of pollutants in emissions and will cost more than the current $8.50 Marylanders pay every other year. Owners of vehicles that fail the test will have to pay up to $450 to make repairs before being eligible for a waiver.

In 1984, county officials argued that Carroll did not have an air pollution problem and should not be included with other Baltimore-area jurisdictions. Now, those officials concede that Carroll should be incorporated in efforts to address the Baltimore region's air-quality problems, since the completion of Interstate 795 in 1986 led to an increase in development and commuting.

"I certainly don't wish it on Frederick County, but that was one thing that annoyed people all over Carroll County," said V. Lanny Harchenhorn, a former Carroll state delegate who opposed Carroll's inclusion in the emissions testing program in the General Assembly. "The traffic on I-270 heading to [Washington] D.C. was as much as the traffic from Taneytown and Westminster heading down Route 140 to Baltimore."

Former Commissioner William V. Lauterbach Jr. said the program should have been extended more widely from the outset.

"If there's clean air in one place, there should be clean air in other places," he said. "I think it's more fair."

Delegate Donald B. Elliott, a Carroll Republican, said he might revive in 1993 his bill to require motorists in all Maryland jurisdictions to pay a proportional share of the program's costs. Drivers in rural counties would pay less because they contribute less to pollution in metropolitan areas.

Mr. Elliott said the program otherwise could be an economic hardship for poor individuals whose cars fail the test.

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