Maryland Blasts EPA for Inaction on Neighboring Pollution

BALTIMORE (CN) — Blaming power-generating plants in neighboring states for causing pollution in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan had the state file suit Wednesday to spur tighter federal regulations.

At Hogan’s request, Attorney General Brian Frosh brought the federal complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency and Trump-appointed administrator Scott Pruitt, asking the EPA to apply stricter pollution controls on 19 power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The 14-page complaint in U.S. District Court says the EPA has been sitting since November 2016 on a petition from Maryland, which asked the EPA to find that the power plants are in violation of the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor provision” for the release of nitrogen oxides into the air.

This federal law is supposed to protect everyone against the harm of breathing polluted air, so the federal government must ensure that power plants everywhere be held accountable,” Frosh said in a statement.

Rather than holding a public hearing on Maryland’s Clean Air Act Section 126 petition, the EPA gave itself six months to consider it, according to the complaint. More than 280 days have passed since the EPA received Maryland’s petition.

Maryland blames pollutants released by the plants for contributing to much of the smog that pesters residents on the summer’s hottest days.

“Maryland has made significant progress in improving our air quality in recent years, and that progress is in jeopardy due to a lack of action by the EPA that dates back to the previous administration,” Hogan said in a statement.

As described in Maryland’s complaint, the state’s still-pending EPA petition alleges that pollutants emitted by the power plants interferes with the state’s maintenance of certain National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The Maryland Department of the Environment estimates that 70 percent of the ozone pollution that affects Baltimore and Washington regions’ air blows in from outside the state, according to the complaint.

Maryland seeks to require 36 generating units at 19 plants to install the same scrubbers and other air-cleaning technology that Maryland requires plants within its borders to install.

“The EPA has found significant negative health effects in individuals exposed to elevated levels of ozone, including lung tissue damage and aggravation of existing conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema. Exposure to ozone has also been linked to premature mortality and harm to vegetation and ecosystems, including commercial crops,” the complaint states.

State officials warned the EPA of their pending lawsuit in July, in accordance with the Clean Air Act’s 60-day notice requirement for citizen lawsuits.

EPA officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation praised the lawsuit saying it and its partner groups are planning to file a similar action of their own in the coming weeks.

“We applaud and support Maryland in this effort to force EPA to act against out-of-state power plants whose emissions worsen Marylanders’ health problems, and have a negative impact on Maryland waters,” Jon Mueller, the foundation’s vice president for litigation, said in a statement.

“For years, Maryland has taken steps to reduce air pollution from power plants and vehicles operating within the state. But about 70 percent of the Baltimore area ozone problem comes from upwind sources of air pollution,” Mueller said.

 

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