What’s at Stake
Five million Marylanders live in areas that have been designated as having unhealthy levels of smog in the air.
The standards will result in fewer new cases of asthma in children, fewer heart attacks in adults and fewer deaths from respiratory illness. It will also allow those suffering from smog pollution now to breathe a little easier.
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility and Sierra Club represented by Earthjustice announced that they will hold Governor Hogan, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Division of State Documents accountable for failing to implement new clean air protections to clean up coal-fired power plants that had been finalized and adopted prior to Gov. Hogan taking office. In April of 2015, the public health and environmental groups submitted a 30-day notice of their intent to file a lawsuit, as mandated under Maryland law, to require the publication and enforcement of the adopted clean air protections. The lawsuit was filed on June 11.
Currently, five million Marylanders live in areas that have been designated as having unhealthy levels of smog in the air. The clean air protections at issue would reduce smog in areas including Baltimore and surrounding counties which were assigned the worst smog designation east of the Mississippi River by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The safeguards would reduce pollution by requiring coal-fired power plants in Maryland to install and use the same types of modern pollution controls that are more prevalent on coal plants in states throughout the country, including traditional coal states such as West Virginia, Alabama and Kentucky. Less than half of the coal units in Maryland are equipped with such modern controls.
After a lengthy stakeholder process that garnered the support of public health advocates, Maryland’s independent air quality advisory council, The Maryland State Medical Society and the owner of three large coal plants in the state, the MDE finalized the standards known as the nitrogen oxide (NOx) Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) rule. That rule was adopted by the agency on January 16, 2015 and submitted that same day for publication in the Maryland Register.
On Gov. Hogan’s first day in office, however, he issued a directive to the Division of State Documents blocking publication of the rule. In their 30-day notice of intent to sue letter, Sierra Club and PSR make clear that the Governor lacked the authority to block these safeguards, and that the Division of State Documents is legally required to publish the rule so that it can be enforced.