Emissions Standards in MarylandThe people of Maryland...


March 27, 1993

Emissions Standards in Maryland

The people of Maryland continue to be misled.

They've been promised dramatic environmental benefits if they endorse the adoption of California's Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations for new cars and trucks in Maryland.

At the same time, they've been threatened with economic chaos if they don't. In reality, the facts don't support either contention.

LEV proponents have obscured the fact that, starting next year, new cars and trucks are subject to much stricter pollution controls under the Federal Clean Air Act of 1990. Under existing law, they will become about 98 percent cleaner than pre-control vehicles.

When the LEV standards take effect in California, tailpipe emissions there will drop to about 99 percent below uncontrolled vehicles. That's a variance of only about 1 percent from the cars and trucks available in the rest of the nation ` so insignificant that it would be virtually imperceptible to the environment in Maryland.

Dealing with those few remaining traces of pollutant as required by the LEV program is an enormous task requiring sophisticated control systems and special fuels.

Meeting the LEV standards will come at a dear price to consumers. When Virginia rejected the LEV proposal, the cost of needed controls was estimated to be $645. Other independent consultants, widely respected for their competence, estimated the increased cost from $911 to $1,342 per vehicle.

And controls are only half the California regulation. Their law also mandates a cleaner, specially reformulated "California" gasoline. Consumers in California ` and, by federal law, in any state that adopts the LEV program ` expect to pay perhaps 20 cents or more per gallon for the fuel needed to make the LEV controls function properly.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (DOE) says it won't mandate the California fuels, but New York tried that approach and the federal court ruled they must adopt the complete LEV package, including "California" fuels.

No one really knows what the cost might be, because nobody has yet developed a vehicle that successfully meets all the LEV requirements, in spite of what LEV advocates have told the citizens of Maryland.

A recent study prepared with the help of Maryland's DOE concluded that the LEV program won't have a significant impact the environment of the region.

The new federal standard coupled with other measures already proposed for Maryland could reduce total motor vehicle pollution by about 62 percent.

If the LEV program were adopted, the incremental reduction would be a little more than 2 percent, not the 50-to-75 percent improvement LEV proponents want people to believe.

If the state wants measurable air quality improvement, it can take a significant step right now and beef up its inspection and maintenance program to address the greatest source of motor vehicle pollution: the older, high-emitting vehicles still on the road today. That action alone could deliver significant and immediate environmental gains.

The threat of an economic disaster in Maryland without LEV is also flawed. Motor vehicles account for only about 25 percent of the man-made pollutants that can develop into the culprit ozone. The other 75 percent comes from a variety of sources including businesses, homes and utilities.

To comply with the Clean Air Act, the state must consider stricter controls on other pollution sources as well, no matter what it does with the LEV standards. If the people of Maryland elect to adopt the California LEV program, they stand to pay a great deal and gain very little if anything.

The continuing depiction of LEV as a "must" for cleaner air in Maryland is both misleading and a disservice to the consumer.

Alan R. Weverstad


The writer is manager of emissions compliance for General Motors Corporation.

Dying and Citizens' Rights

The eloquent article by Lillibeth Navarro (Opinion Commentary, March 10) regarding health care decision-making legislation now pending in Annapolis is an important contribution to the discussion.

Ms. Navarro brings to public attention the importance of not only facilitating individual health care choices by and for the dying, but also maintaining our respect for the living and for the purposes and integrity of the health care professions.

Sara Engram of The Sun has well presented in her columns the common objectives of the several proposals before the General Assembly.

The sponsors of those bills and the various organizations and individuals involved in their drafting have been working in a cooperative way to respect the values of everyone who has an interest in how this state responds to these important questions.

Those questions center on the values to which Ms. Navarro's commentary gives eloquent witness.

How should the legislature give assurance of dignity in every citizen's final moments but also avoid dehumanizing vulnerable and disabled persons?

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