Voluntary treadmill test gets backing Senate committee likely to disappoint Glendening

February 21, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A state Senate committee is expected to approve a bill that would keep Maryland's treadmill-like emissions test voluntary, despite the Glendening administration's push to make it mandatory.

At a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing yesterday, members voiced concern about the dynamometer emissions test damaging cars because the engines would be run at high speeds. The lawmakers complained that they haven't seen sufficient evidence that the dynamometer is more accurate than the tailpipe test that is required now.

"I've tried to be reasonable about this," Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Democratic member of the committee from Baltimore County and lead sponsor of the bill, said during the hearing. "The juice we get out is not worth the squeeze."

Hundreds of opponents of the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program's dynamometer test staged a boisterous protest in front of the State House on Monday, with some vowing to vote out of office any legislator who supports the test.

But Gov. Parris N. Glendening is pushing for the dynamometer test to meet federal air-quality standards. The state also has felt pressure from a lawsuit accusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of violating federal law by allowing Maryland, four other mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia to drag their feet in reducing emissions that cause summertime smog.

If Maryland motorists are required to take the test, 2.8 million of the state's 3.8 million registered motor vehicles would be put on a dynamometer as part of the biennial emissions inspection.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Democrat, would not comment yesterday about the Senate's bill, saying he had not seen it.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, also a Democrat, said he was concerned that if the state does not require the dynamometer test, Maryland's emissions testing program might be taken over by the federal government -- a move that could mean higher costs for consumers and energy-related businesses.

Spokesmen for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co. voiced support for mandatory dynamometer testing at yesterday's hearing. Without it, the utilities fear they would face more of the burden of the state meeting clean-air requirements.

Miller said that even though the test is unpopular with some people, the state has to consider Maryland's best interest.

"I don't know if we can achieve full compliance if the people who support the test are volunteers," Miller said.

But some of the committee members appeared willing to take that risk. Five of the eight senators who sponsored the bill are members of the committee.

Dorchester Republican Sen. Richard F. Colburn, said in an interview that he also would vote for the bill.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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