AUGUSTA — The Legislature will consider an auto emissions testing proposal encompassing the entire state and an alternate plan that could cover an area as small as one county in southern Maine.
The two plans are to be submitted Friday to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee.
The federal government has ordered Maine to come up with a plan for reducing smog produced by vehicle emissions in at least Cumberland County by January 1999.
In response, the Legislature told the administration to offer two plans to start up a testing program, and specified that one of them must encompass the whole state.
But officials say neither proposal will be like the unpopular CarTest program of 1994-95, which was finally halted by the Legislature under threat of a statewide referendum.
The new tests will likely be conducted as part of Maine’s annual vehicle safety inspections, said Jim Brooks, head of the Air Quality Bureau at the Department of Environmental Protection.
Brooks said the DEP is looking at a testing program in Vermont and considering modifying it to suit Maine’s needs.
In Vermont, when a vehicle goes in for an annual safety inspection, the mechanic also checks to make sure the car’s gas cap is snug and looks to see that the catalytic converter is attached properly and in good condition.
Eventually, a pressure test of the gas cap will be required, and with 1996 model cars and newer, mechanics must get a readout from the vehicle’s on-board computer to see if it has been running well.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency must approve state programs. It has already rejected a mandatory “cash-for-clunkers” program in which the state would buy old, heavily polluting cars to get them off the road.