On Christmas Eve, The Post reported the not surprising news that the Environmental Protection Agency has deferred implementing a ban on the sale of leaded fuels. The EPA apparently reasons that this long-awaited step should continue to wait, since it would impose hardship on a diminishing class of users, such as farmers, who depend on equipment that cannot function on unleaded fuel.

This logic overlooks the persisting and widespread availability of leaded fuels at pump prices 5 percent lower than unleaded products. This cheaper gas not only creates incentives to keep polluting gas guzzlers in service, it also encourages owners of newer cars -- with the aid of nozzle attachments -- to pump leaded fuels.

Should not the EPA be pressed to obtain and publish timely statistics on the actual sales trends of leaded products? Surely, if leaded gas was moving toward minuscule levels of rural use, gas stations (at least within the Beltway) would have started dropping the product rather than continuing to advertise it prominently.

I urge The Post and others to press Congress and the administration to enact a user's fee of 20 cents to 25 cents per gallon to reverse the incentive to use leaded fuel. The costs to society of pollution should, moreover, be recovered from the contributors to the pollution.

The funds obtained could help reduce our deficit at least a little. Because the new fee would impose hardship on farmers, some proceeds could be used to assist them to modernize.

ERWIN VON DEN STEINEN

Arlington