Langerholc’s leadership noteworthy

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker’s first term in office — whether in the Senate or House of Representatives — is a learning experience.

Having no governmental seniority, freshman lawmakers generally spend much of their time just adhering to the opinions and wishes of their party leadership, rather than trying to lead some new initiative of their own.

Upon arriving in Harrisburg, they realize quickly that the leadership qualities that they tried to convey on the campaign trail won’t “move mountains” immediately under the state Capitol dome.

To his credit, Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-35th, seems determined not to allow freshman status to prevent him from making a meaningful impact during his first term. The effort he’s leading regarding vehicle emissions testing, while targeted specifically toward benefiting just a part of his district, could end up impacting other areas of the state as well.

Perhaps Blair County vehicle owners might someday be a direct beneficiary of what Langerholc currently is trying to accomplish for Cambria County — removing Cambria from the list of counties where an emissions test is required in conjunction with the required annual state vehicle inspection.

In this part of Pennsylvania, only vehicles in Cambria, Blair, Centre and Westmoreland counties are subject to emissions testing; Langerholc represents Cambria and Bedford counties and part of Clearfield County.

With Cambria and Blair so much alike in having met and complied with federal air quality standards over the past decade, if Cambria is deemed worthy of being removed from the emissions-testing list, it would seem logical for Blair to be removed from the list also.

The leadership Langerholc has begun to exhibit in Harrisburg is evident from the fact that the Senate on Oct. 24 passed his resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to review whether Cambria should be removed from emissions-testing requirements. The resolution — Senate Resolution 168 — now goes to the state House for consideration.

Whether the removal Langerholc seeks will come about is uncertain, however, even if it gains Harrisburg’s concurrence. That’s because the final decision rests with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and that decision will be based on a revised state implementation plan that Pennsylvania would be required to prepare and submit.

Cambria, Blair, Centre and Westmoreland are only four of the

25 Pennsylvania counties where vehicle emissions testing is mandated; many of the other counties are heavily populated areas near Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

In an Aug. 1 editorial, the Mirror expressed the opinion that the request involving Cambria shouldn’t be approved without a close evaluation by environmental experts and the opportunity for public input at formal hearings. That opinion still stands.

But the window for such an evaluation and gathering of input was opened by the Oct. 24 Senate action, and the House hopefully will concur.

It must be acknowledged that whatever is decided eventually will have an impact extending beyond this state, since pollution, whether from one large source or from myriad smaller ones, doesn’t remain “locked” within a state’s borders.

Still, Langerholc’s leadership on the issue is noteworthy because it delivers the message that he’s not content with being a follower.

Other freshman lawmakers should take notice.