Maryland's business community, which for three years has tought unsuccessfully for relaxation of state air pollution control regulations, won a victory Wednesday as the house of delegates approved legislation that would bring state standards [WORD ILLEGIBLE] conformity with somewhat less strict U.S. requirements.
The legislation, approved by an [WORD ILLEGIBLE] vote in House, now goes to the Senate, where its chances seem [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Senate President Steny H. Hoyer [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Prince George's) has indicated he [WORD ILLEGIBLE] push for the measure, according [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Hoyer aide.
The chief beneficiaries of the legislation would be the coal-producing [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of Western Maryland - represented by the bill's sponso, Casper R.Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) - and , eventually most of the major manufacturing companies and utilities in the rest of the state.
Both would benefit for the same reason: the relaxation of the current standards would permit some industries to burn a less expensive, lower grade of coal. The coal companies would be able to increase sales and the utilities and manufacturer would be able to cut fuel costs.
"This bill is not going to set back our air quality in any way shape or form," House Majority Leader John S. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] (D-Baltimore County) said yesterday. "It's going to give Maryland industry parity with other states," added Arnick, who represents the heavily industrialized Dundalk area east of Baltimore.
Del. Steven V. Sklar (D-Baltimore) argued that, "I don't think we can afford to take a chance and trade off economic development for air quality and the health of our citizens . . .
"You do not improve a poor air quality situation by lowering your standards," added Sklar, who broke with most of his colleagues in the Baltimore delegation to vote against the legislation.
The immediate impact the legislation would have on factories and utilities in the Washington - Baltimore area is not clear. George P. Ferreri, held of the state's air quality control bureau, said that "the main thrust of the bill is in rural areas. There we are meeting the state standards so we can so-called dirty up the air a little."
Ferreri added, "I do not anticipate any wholesale relaxation" of emission standards for factories and utilities in either the Baltimore of Washington area.
Part of the reason the legislation would have little impact on Washington is that the Potomac Electric Power Co., one of the area's main industries, already is exempted from Maryland emission standards governing sulphur dioxide. As a result, the utility's six plants, two of which are in Maryland, already are burning a lower grade of coal with an increased sulphur content.
As aresult of the already relaxed sulphur standard, Pepco was able to save $32 million in fuel costs in the past year, a company spokesman said yesterday. A Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman said that the measure could save his firm $45 million over the next three years.
Air quality chief Ferreri seemed to contradict that, explaining that because the Baltimore area's air quality currently falls below even what the lower U.S. standards require, no firm - BG & E included - would be able to increase its emission of pollutants any time soon.