Citing benefits to public health and the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening announced that the state will require the use of sophisticated treadmill-like devices for vehicle emission tests.

The governor on May 19 vetoed a bill passed by the General Assembly that attempted to block the state from requiring the test. The action means the test will become mandatory Oct. 1.

"One of the best things we can do to continue to preserve Maryland's environment, and to make our air cleaner and healthier, is to have a solid vehicle emissions inspection program," Glendening said in vetoing the bill.

The EPA had said the test was required to help the state meet air quality standards, and had warned that $54 million or more in highway aid could be cut off, and that other restrictions could be imposed on the state.

Opposition to the tests was lead be several conservative radio talk show hosts in the state who have traditionally opposed environmental rules. They had said that the tests damaged cars, though state officials say few cars were damaged and most of the problems were minor, such as scuffed tires.

Under Maryland's existing program, pollutants from motor vehicle emissions are checked while a car is idling. Under the expanded test, vehicles will be put on a treadmill and engines run at highway speeds. The new test will be able to measure nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which are a major contributor to ground level ozone and to the Bay, something the old test could not do.

"His decision will have a direct effect on improving the condition of the Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water polluted by auto emissions," said Dru Schmidt Perkins of Clean Water Action. "This will, in short, mean a cleaner Chesapeake Bay."

Critics said Glendening would pay a political price with voters angry over having to comply with the new requirement. "There are a lot of mad, upset people out there today,"' said Sen. Philip Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel, one of the chief legislative opponents of the program.

Others said that the state should not bow to EPA requirements. But, Glendening said "This decision is not about threats from Congress and the EPA and the issuing of sanctions. This is not even about state's rights ... This is about one thing and one thing only: doing what is right for the right reasons. This is about protecting the Chesapeake Bay and protecting the health of our citizens, most notably the 600,000 Marylanders who suffer from respiration problems."

Mike McCabe, administrator of EPA Region III, congratulated Glendening for deciding "to stand by the people, rather than to grandstand."

Dynamometer testing will also be required in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia, though the tests in those areas will be done at private auto shops or service stations, unlike the large centralized emissions testing centers being used in Maryland.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary James Seif also commended Glendening. "Pennsylvania commends Maryland and its governor for doing the right thing and doing it for the right reasons," he said. "It's not a question of merely avoiding sanctions, but of assuring an effective, efficient air quality protection program. Maryland's leadership helps other states in this region, including Pennsylvania."