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February 20, 2007:
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By JONATHAN N. CRAWFORD, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - A proposed law requiring new cars to comply with stricter emissions standards starting in 2011 won overwhelming approval on Tuesday from Maryland's House of Delegates. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to also find strong support.
The bill, known as the Clean Cars Act, would require auto manufacturers selling cars in Maryland to have new gas-saving technology and to offer a percentage of low emission cars for the purpose of reducing air pollution. It passed on the House floor 122 to 16 without a murmur of debate.
An exultant Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, a fierce supporter of the bill, pumped her fists in celebration.
"This means a lot. ... Now we're saying to ourselves, 'We in Maryland, consumers who drive automobiles, want to make sure that our car dealers and manufacturers are sending cleaner cars into Maryland,'" said McIntosh, chairwoman of the Environmental Matters Committee and floor manager of the bill.
Similar legislation was killed two years ago in a Senate committee. But this year, Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, co-sponsor of a Senate version, anticipates an "easy" passage of the bill in both chambers.
The House version of the bill is expected to be reviewed by the Senate later this week. The bill was initially part of Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative package.
Opponents of the bill harbored concerns about the potential economic impact on car dealers under the new measure. One concern is that car dealers' sales to out-of-state customers would decline due to the projected $1000-price increase of cars that meet the California standard.
"If there is a detrimental [economic] impact it will be too late to do anything about it because we will have already implemented the program," said Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, R-Calvert, an opponent of the bill.
O'Donnell said it would have been more prudent for the state to stick to the federal emissions regulations, in-lieu of adopting the California standards, because the economic costs to state businesses are known while the standards are also "stringent." However, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) reported that the existing federal and state programs are insufficient since much of the state currently fails to meet federal air quality standards. The MDE also found that car emissions are a central problem since Marylanders drive more than 135 million miles each day, contributing up to 40 percent of the pollutants responsible for the state's air pollution problems.