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Reality Check Helps Out Smog Check

August 30, 1993

California and Washington really can communicate--once in a while. And when they do, it usually makes for fewer standoffs and better public policy.

To meet the stringent new federal air quality goals mandated by the Clean Air Act of 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing California to scrap its existing Smog Check program and come up with what the EPA considers a better system by Nov. 15. If the state fails to do so, it could risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

The federal position represents a clear threat.

Even so, state Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside) stood his ground: Californians want to fight air pollution, but they don't like Washington telling them exactly how to do it.

EPA Administrator Carol Browner had called for limited centralized testing centers to replace the neighborhood Smog Check shops. Presley countered that although the current system for checking emissions should be improved, California wants flexibility in how to achieve the goals.

After some testy moments, Browner, on Friday, agreed to support a more flexible means, as long as the ends remained unchanged.

A bill by Presley, SB 119, is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday. It has been amended a few times and probably will be amended more before a final vote.

It's not clear that SB 119 is the answer. But the movement toward compromise at least takes the issue away from polar opposites and aims the state toward an auto smog control program that we hope California and Washington can live with.

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