Business group faults state plan to control smog

September 22, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A state plan to clean the air by moving commuters out of their cars and into mass transit is too complicated, too expensive and will cost businesses qualified employees, according to an Annapolis business group.

"If passed in this draft form, it will cause significant increased costs for many Maryland businesses at a time when they can least afford it," said Mike Molster, president of the Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association, a subsidiary of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

"There must be an easier way to achieve the desired end result," Mr. Molster said.

Where governments once encouraged commuters to car pool, the federal 1990 Clean Air Act requires it in cities, including Baltimore, with the poorest air quality. The law requires employers of 100 or more workers to increase the average occupancy of each car driven to their work sites between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. by 25 percent.

The purpose is to increase air quality by decreasing the number of cars on the road. Automotive emissions account for 65 percent of the smog-generating pollutants in Baltimore's air, ranked the fourth worst in the nation last year.

The Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce says the rules proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment are more elaborate and complicated than the federal law requires.

The paperwork proposed by the state "is far too complicated for the average businessman to understand," said Penny Chandler, executive director of the Annapolis chamber.

That could force businesses to hire new employees specifically to coordinate car pools and complete the paperwork, Ms. Chandler said. That could double the cost over what the federal government requires, she said.

"Employers all over Maryland are trying to downsize. Some have had to lay people off. This is not the time to tell businesses to add people on to do something the state does not even have to do," Ms. Chandler said.

Also of particular concern to businesses are the limits the state program would set on the average commute of their employees. Eventually, businesses could be forced to hire less-qualified applicants because they have shorter commutes than those with more education or experience, Ms. Chandler said.

Car and van pooling, the use of mass transit, staggered work hours and allowing employees to work at home are among the options employers have to get their commuters off the road, Ms. Chandler said.

The chamber has sent a letter to the Maryland Department of the Environment asking it to ease the rules before adopting them later this year. The state will hold hearings on its proposal in November before sending it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review.

The chamber is organizing a seminar on the state "Employer Trip Reduction" Program for 8:15 a.m. Oct. 9 at the Ramada Inn in Parole.

For more information, call Penny Chandler at 268-7676.

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