Md. House OKs dynamometer test choice

March 26, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland House of Delegates tapped the brakes on the state's vehicle emissions testing program Tuesday when it approved legislation to keep the controversial dynamometer test optional.

"I'm paying attention to my people back home," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington. "I think we all are."

Every member of the Washington County delegation voted for the plan, but the 77-55 vote sets the stage for a potential veto from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who repeatedly has said he is concerned that voluntary testing could subject the state to tough federal sanctions.

"Clearly, he believes we should have a mandatory program," Glendening spokesman Raymond Feldmann said.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said it was a "close call" for him to vote in favor of voluntary dynamometer testing. But he said the state could switch to mandatory testing if it appears sanctions are forthcoming.


"If, in my mind, the EPA is going to pull the plug, we've got no choice," Poole said.

The mandatory tailpipe test measures emissions from an idling vehicle. It went into effect in the county last year. The optional dynamometer tests the car's emissions as it runs at highway speeds on a treadmill-like device. It is considered more accurate than tailpipe testing.

Many motorists have complained that the dynamometer is a time-consuming hassle in which testing center attendants - not vehicle owners - drive the car on the treadmill.

But opponents of voluntary testing, including Glendening, have warned that the state risks losing millions in federal highway funding and could face other penalties if it does not make the dynamometer mandatory to comply with clean air standards.

Del. Leon G. Billings, D-Montgomery, said during a brief debate on the House floor that the issue is even more basic.

"This is the opportunity you've all been waiting for. This is a chance to vote for dirty air," he said.

But Del. Ronald A. Guns, D-Cecil, who chairs the House Environmental Matters Committee, said much of the state's pollution problem comes from beyond its borders.

The Senate approved an identical bill last week.

Feldmann said Glendening will make the decision whether to veto or sign the bill after examining the legislation.

"I think he has to weigh all the ramifications and decide what he thinks is best," he said.

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