Path now cleared for stricter emissions controls

January 09, 1993|By Ellen J. Silberman | Ellen J. Silberman,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- A decision this week by the Environmental Protection Ageency (EPA) clears the way for Maryland and other Northeastern states to combat the region's smog problems by requiring more stringent controls on auto and truck exhaust than the federal law requires, state air quality officials said yesterday.

The EPA, after several months' delay, Thursday granted California a waiver from the 1990 Clean Air Act, allowing the state with the worst pollution problems in the country to impose the nation's toughest emission standards on new cars and trucks, starting with model year 1994.

The ruling affects Maryland and other states in the Northeast because they have pledged to adopt California's emission standards in their battle against the persistent smog, or ground-level ozone pollution.

At a meeting in Arlington, Va., of air quality officials from the Northeast, Robert Perciasepe, Maryland's environment secretary, confirmed that Gov. William Donald Schaefer plans to reintroduce so-called "California car" legislation this year. The bill was killed last year in the face of intense opposition from the auto and oil industries.

The bill would require all new cars and trucks registered in Maryland to meet California emission standards by 1998. But the limits could be adopted sooner should neighboring states act in concert.

Mr. Perciasepe said he expected Maryland's bill -- in an effort to head off opposition from the oil industry -- to rule out adoption of California's clean-fuel standards, which also are more stringent than federal law requires.

A new study shows that California standards on new cars and trucks can significantly reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants, without having to require cleaner-burning fuel. The study, by the Mid-Atlantic Air Management Association, predicted that by 2015, nitrogen oxide emissions would be cut by 43 percent and hydrocarbon emissions by 34 percent more than under the federal standards.

Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, both byproducts of fuel combustion, are the two main ingredients in the formation of ground-level ozone, which can cause breathing problems for many people.

Massachusetts and New York already have adopted California's stricter car emission limits, but made their adoption contingent on EPA's approval of California's standards. Similar regulations are pending in Maine and New Jersey.

Auto and fuel industry officials said they oppose the California standards. The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association believes that other states should wait to see how much California's program will cost consumers and how much it will help the environment, said Michael Stanton, the group's federal liaison.

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