Federal requirements to reduce air pollution in the Baltimore area were called unfair yesterday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who said they would give the neighboring Washington region a competitive business advantage.
"To me, that's not fair," the governor told about 500 business leaders at the annual meeting of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Conference in Ocean City. "I don't have to tell you that Northern Virginia is a major competitor of ours."
The state must submit a draft plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Nov. 15 for reducing air pollution in the Baltimore area, which has the sixth-worst smog problem in the nation. The plan could require many businesses to change the way employees commute to work by 1996.
The Washington area -- with smog rated the 10th-worst by the EPA -- will not have to require businesses to implement commuter plans, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schaefer said.
The governor told business leaders he would meet this week with Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., pushing for the federal government to treat both metropolitan areas as a single environmental region with the same restrictions.
"Don't pit us against them," he said.
The governor added that the state would comply with EPA requirements, but that "it shouldn't be at the expense of the Maryland economy."
Under the federal Clean Air Act, businesses with more than 100 employees in Baltimore and six counties -- Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford and Howard -- will have to increase the number of workers who can commute by car pool, van pool or mass transit. Otherwise, they will face fines of up to $50,000 a day in the worst cases.
The regulations affect about 1,700 employers with an estimated 600,000 workers. Businesses in the state have opposed the requirements as expensive and cumbersome. Two studies estimated that California employers spend from $6 to $600 per worker, per year to comply.
The goal is reducing ground-level ozone, a chief ingredient in smog. Motor vehicles produce most man-made hydrocarbons and one-third of the nitrogen oxides in the air. The two groups of chemicals react in sunlight to create ozone.
The Clean Air Act says the state must reduce unhealthly levels of ozone-forming emissions in the Baltimore area by 2005 or face the loss of tens of millions of dollars in federal highway money.
Ozone causes shortness of breath and lung inflammation among people who play or work outdoors. It also can aggravate asthma, allergies and other chronic breathing problems. Ground-level ozone should not be confused with ozone in the upper atmosphere, which scientists say is good and protects people from ultraviolet rays.