House OKs delay of 2 emissions tests

March 28, 1995|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff Writer

Fueled by several months of calls and letters from irate motorists, the House of Delegates gave final approval yesterday to legislation that will delay a tougher form of vehicle emissions testing in Maryland until June 1 of next year.

The measure, which is expected to be signed into law by the governor next month, will temporarily spare motorists from two controversial pollution-monitoring tests.

One is a requirement that cars be driven by a station attendant on a treadmill-like device called a dynamometer. The other is a procedure requiring that hoses under a car's hood be disconnected and air forced into the evaporative system to check for leaks.

In the meantime, most motorists still will have to take in their vehicles for the tailpipe test that has been required in much of the state for more than a decade.

That test is being required for the first time in six additional counties -- Frederick, Washington, Cecil, Queen Anne's, Calvert and Charles. The test already is required in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties as well as Baltimore City.

Motorists are required to pay up to $150 to repair problems identified by the testing. The legislature also approved a higher fee for the test of $12, up from $8.50.

The House approved the measure, 125-11, without debate. If the bill had failed, motorists would have been hit with the tougher tests.

"This is like delaying pregnancy -- at the end of 15 months, we're still going to have this baby," said Del. Martha S. Klima, a Baltimore County Republican who voted against the bill.

Nevertheless, most opponents are hopeful that a Republican-controlled Congress will intervene and relax the federal Clean Air Act's emissions testing requirements. The U.S. House has already voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the program over the next six months while Congress reviews it.

Maryland transportation officials expect to mail testing notices by May 1. Owners will then have eight weeks to take their vehicles to one of the state's 19 new testing stations.

Cars that were originally scheduled to be tested between January and April will probably not be called back until 1997, officials said. Taking them in any sooner would have strained capacity, said Raymond C. Feldmann, a spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Administration.

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