Angry motorists protest expanded emissions tests

January 11, 1995|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.

About 200 angry motorists demonstrated in Annapolis yesterday against the state's expanded emissions tests, as 28 legislators got behind a measure that would overturn the controversial anti-smog program.

The demonstrators, carrying placards and shouting slogans outside the State House, cheered when a group of lawmakers announced they would try to repeal the 1991 law authorizing the tougher tests.

"We made a mistake to trust the governor and his regulators," said Del. Martha S. Klima, a Baltimore County Republican. "Be sure, big government did go too far."

Delegate Klima said she and 27 co-sponsors would introduce the repeal legislation tomorrow. If passed, the "emergency" measure would take effect in April, she said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said a panel of lawmakers will review the program during the next 90 days. An effort to strip away unpopular features, such as the treadmill-like dynamometers, is likely.

The tougher tests, which replace the tailpipe checks done for the past decade, were supposed to start Jan. 3 but were delayed for at least several weeks because of computer problems at the 19 new testing stations.

The 1990 Clean Air Act requires the testing in smoggy areas such as Baltimore and Washington. But opposition has been building in recent weeks and includes the trucking industry, new car dealers, tire dealers and the American Automobile Association.

For many protesters, yesterday's rally on Lawyers Mall was as much a backlash against big government as against the emissions tests. "We're tired of having our rights taken away, that's all," said Sheldon Isaacs of Baltimore, whose baseball cap read, "Impeach Clinton."

"There is a need to make our air cleaner, and reduced auto emissions are an important step toward that end," said Ms. Klima. "But Washington is dead wrong to require states to meet goals without providing the funds to pay for it."

Environmentalists countered with statements of support. "Our children stand to lose most if the Vehicle Emissions Testing Program is not implemented," said Glen Besa, a spokesman for the American Lung Association. "For more than 75,000 Maryland children with asthma, [smog] means difficulty breathing, greater sensitivity to allergens, more medication and more frequent hospitalizations."

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