Glendening's First Veto

Clean Air Drive: Governor Must Reject Bill Banning Auto-emission Treadmill Tests.

April 29, 1997

MARYLAND'S General Assembly voted with its heart, not its head, when lawmakers approved a bill this month banning mandatory treadmill tests as part of the state's auto-emissions inspection program. That leaves Gov. Parris N. Glendening little choice -- if he uses his head -- but to overrule that emotional legislative decision and cast his first veto of 1997.

If the governor fails to act by May 15, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will impose a federal clean-air program on Maryland that hurts drivers, businesses and the state's highway program. Under a consent decree signed with the Sierra Club, EPA must take these steps if states such as Maryland fail to implement viable air-cleanup programs by then.

Conservatives rail against the treadmill test as government intrusion. Yet all the test requires is for an attendant to press a car's accelerator while the vehicle is on the treadmill.

Foes say great damage to cars has been done by attendants. Not true. Out of a quarter-million cars that have undergone the treadmill test already, the number of cars damaged is less than 100 -- four-tenths of one percent.

Opponents blithely dismiss the percussions of banning the treadmill test. That is a mistake. If EPA imposes its own program, Maryland drivers could face annual treadmill emissions tests (it's now once every other year) at twice the current price of $12. And the waiver given a driver who spends $150 on emissions repairs won't apply: The EPA doesn't care how much it costs in repairs to pass the test.

Even worse, EPA will clamp down on economic development to reduce pollution. It could force BGE and other businesses to spend tens of millions on anti-pollution measures and impose controls on lawn mowers, printers, boaters, auto repair shops, dry cleaners and bakeries. Also, $55 million in federal highway projects for Maryland will be withheld, with another $250 million threatened.

That's why the governor must veto this bill. Maryland has done a good job cutting air pollution. The number of ozone-alert days has been halved this decade. The treadmill test should help reduce auto-emissions even further. That's a big part of Maryland's clean-air effort. It must go forward -- regardless of the grandstanding by state legislators.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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