Energy Secretary John Herrington yesterday confirmed sites in seven states as finalists for the $4.4 billion supercollider atom smasher and again pledged that the selection would be nonpolitical.

The sites were chosen last month by a joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Michigan and Colorado.

"The department found no justification for either rejecting or changing the academies' recommended list of sites, which . . . was developed impartially and without bias," Herrington told reporters.

The committee also chose a site in New York, which Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D) later withdrew because of local opposition. Cuomo requested that another site in the state be substituted.

Herrington said the department would not consider the withdrawn site further, and did not act on Cuomo's request because it would not be "fair to the other states."

Before Herrington makes his tentative choice in July, department officials will visit each site, paying particular attention to soil conditions and environmental impacts.

Herrington is scheduled to make his selection final a year from now, but he has said his July choice will stand if it survives the preparation of an environmental impact statement. artment's selection process.

"The department has concluded that the academies have carefully followed and fully satisfied in a credible manner the requirements and guidelines outlined in the invitation for site proposals," Herrington said. Members of the academies and their colleagues on the committee "responded with the kind of integrity, fairness and objectivity for which they are noted," he said.

Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich., whose district includes his state's proposed site, said: "We have two states (on the list) with more electoral votes than Michigan (Illinois and Texas). And presidential politics may well play into this. Obviously, one of the sites is in the speaker's district down in Texas. And that's going to be a major political obstacle, it seems to me."

Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado called on all governors to back the project and said Colorado "will continue to support the (collider) regardless of the outcome for our state."

Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., said the rejection of his state's two sites means "we must take another look at our entire process and our ability to attract projects to California." But if other sites are better, the collider "will be sited in a truly exceptional location," he said.

AP-BA-01-19 1621EST