Doctors Fight Maryland Governor for Air

     ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CN) – Maryland’s governor “unlawfully thwarted” an air quality regulation for coal-fired power plants, putting his state’s health at risk, Physicians for Social Responsibility claims in court.
     The Chesapeake chapter of the physicians group and the Sierra Club sued Gov. Lawrence Hogan and three state departments in Anne Arundel County Court, seeking writ of mandate.
     Hogan, a Republican who made his fortune in real estate, took office in January.
     The plaintiffs say the defendant Maryland Department of the Environment adopted the rule on Jan. 16, but Hogan ordered the defendant Division of State Documents not to publish it in the Maryland Register.
     The defendants have no right to refuse publication, which would trigger a 10-day period after which the rule will take effect, the plaintiffs say in the June 11 complaint.
     They say the rule is “critical to the long-term health of Maryland residents,” who already suffer from “some of the highest ozone levels in the United States.”
     Ozone, which creates smog, is particularly dangerous to children, old people and people with asthma.
     The blocked regulation was adopted after a long “stakeholder process” and was backed even by a company that owns three coal-fired plants that will be affected by it, the complaint states. The stakeholder consultations are required by the Clean Air Act.
     The Environmental Protection Agency says the Baltimore area is in “moderate nonattainment” of Clean Air Act standards.
     Calling the situation “an emergency of the governor’s creation,” the plaintiffs say the Department of the Environment announced an emergency regulation in April to implement phase one of the bill’s two-pronged smog reduction plan. That regulation will expire in October, and phase two, the “critical” nitrogen oxide rule, “continues to languish.”
     Nitrogen oxide combines with volatile organic compounds, heat and sunlight to form smog.
     Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said his agency is “working closely with our federal, state and local partners.” He said his agency will be “enforcing the brand new regulation for 2015, [and] issuing in the coming months strong and protective regulations for 2016 and beyond.”
     That’s not good enough, the plaintiffs say.
     They seek an injunction and writ of mandamus ordering the defendants to publish the regulation promptly, and then enforce it.
     They are represented by Susan Stevens Miller with Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C. office.

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