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STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. motorists in Germany can begin picking up environmental zone decals for their cars at military vehicle registration offices, but some drivers won’t need them anytime soon.

The new decals, which on Jan. 1 became mandatory in Berlin, Hannover and Cologne, designate which cars can be driven into those downtown, pollution-prone areas. The decals are free.

A number of other cities will require the stickers later this year, including Stuttgart and Mannheim on March 1. Street signs will mark the cities’ Umwelt zones, or environmental zones.

“It would be prudent for folks in (Stuttgart and Mannheim) to get their stickers to preclude any violations of the law,” Tom Lorenzini, of U.S. Army Europe’s provost marshal office, said in an e-mail.

Diesel-fueled cars made before 1997 and gasoline-fueled cars made before 1993 will not be eligible for a decal and not be allowed in the designated downtowns.

The decals are not required on major highways, including the autobahn. Government-owned vehicles are exempt from the law.

Peter Dietrich, a spokesman for the city of Mannheim, said police there might be lenient for a time at enforcing the decals.

“We assume there will be a time when the controls will not be so strict and that drivers will get a warning,” Dietrich said.

Markus Fliege, a spokesman for Cologne, said his city would start in April to strictly enforce the decal law.

The fine for violating the law is 40 euros, or about $59.

Also on March 1, the Stuttgart-area cities of Ilsfeld, Leonberg, Ludwigsburg, Schwäbisch-Gmünd and Tübingen will begin requiring the decals. Bochum will require the decals starting July 1, and Munich comes on board on Oct.1.

Other cities expected to require the decals sometime in 2008, but have yet to establish a date, include Augsburg, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt/Main, Gera, Mühlacker, Pforzheim, Regensburg and Reutlingen, according to USAREUR.

Nuremberg and Herrenberg will start enforcing the decals on Jan. 1, 2009.

Earlier this month, Army Garrison Kaiserslautern distributed an e-mail to its populace stating that it wasn’t necessary for most to rush into the vehicle registration office there for a decal.

“Unless you have immediate plans to travel through the inner cities of Berlin, Hannover or Cologne, there is no immediate need for the ‘Umweltzone decal,’” the e-mail stated. The garrison also asked motorists to wait until they renewed their vehicle’s registration before obtaining a decal.

At the time, the Army said there was a shortage of decals, but USAREUR now states that is no longer the case. The Mannheim and Stuttgart offices have decals and are ready to begin distributing, Lorenzini said.

For more information to the U.S. Army Europe Web site at:

Emissions rules

The basic rules for the emission categories are:DIESEL ENGINES

Vehicles registered before Jan. 1, 1997, will be designated Category 1 and display no decal.Vehicles registered between Jan. 1, 1997, and Dec. 31, 2000, will be designated Category 2 and display a red decal.Vehicles registered from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2005, will be designated Category 3 and display a yellow decal.Vehicles registered from Jan. 1, 2006, and later will be designated Category 4 and display a green decal.GASOLINE ENGINES

Vehicles registered before Jan. 1, 1993, will be designated Category 1 and get no decal.Vehicles registered after Jan. 1, 1993, will be designated Category 4 and display a green decal.Source: U.S. Army Europe

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