Hogan Sues EPA Over Power Plant Pollution from Neighboring States - Southern Maryland Headline News

Hogan Sues EPA Over Power Plant Pollution from Neighboring States



COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Sept. 28, 2017)—Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce limits on air-pollution control at 19 mostly coal-fired power plants in five states upwind of Maryland.

"We want the EPA to step in and make sure provisions of the Clean Air Act are followed," said Ben Grumbles, Maryland's secretary of the environment. "This is necessary to protect air quality and the Chesapeake Bay."

The 19 plants have installed "smog controls," according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. "But they're not always running them when they should be," Grumbles said.

About one-third of the nitrogen that ends up in bay waters comes from "air sources," according to the EPA, which did not respond to multiple requests for comments by press time.

The original petition to the EPA requesting that the agency regulate the plants—in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia—was filed by the MDE in November. The EPA granted itself a six-month extension on the original 60-day deadline. By July, the agency still had not responded to the petition.

The Hogan administration and MDE contend the power plants in question have not "effectively" operated their pollution control systems during the summer months, also known as "ozone season," and some have not used their pollution control systems at all.

Although most parent companies of the power plants cited in the Maryland petition did not respond to requests for comment by deadline, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates Paradise, a coal-fired plant in Kentucky, challenged Maryland officials' claims.

"We do have emissions controls. They run when the plant is operating," said Jim Hopson,TVA's manager of public relations, who said he was not aware of the Maryland lawsuit. "They reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrous dioxide levels in excess of 90 percent and they eliminate particulate matter…All of our plants have those."

The EPA defines the ozone season for Maryland and all the states named in the EPA petition as April through October, with the exception of Indiana, whose ozone season is April through September. Ozone levels are believed to be at their worst during the summer on sunny, hot days, particularly in urban environments, according to the EPA.

"Pollution from out-of-state power plants also harms our in-state streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay," said Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which plans to file a similar lawsuit with partners in the coming weeks. "Studies show nitrogen oxides from coal plant emissions degrade our water, and harm our fish and other aquatic life."

In its original petition to the EPA, MDE expressed concern that nitrogen oxide emissions from the offending plants could prevent the state from achieving the required air-quality standards mandated by the Clean Air Act.

According to estimates in the Maryland petition, about 39,000 tons of nitrous oxide emissions could have been prevented in 2015 had the 19 power plants in question "run their control technologies efficiently." In 2014, MDE said those same power plants had profited to the tune of $24 million by either not using their pollution controls or not using them effectively.

A request for comment from the American Coal Council as to why or why not a coal-fired power plant would employ pollution controls was not returned by press time.

"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," said Hogan, a Republican, in a statement. "We strongly urge the EPA to approve the petition and enforce the air pollution controls…"

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN'S PRESS RELEASE

Governor Larry Hogan Announces State Lawsuit Against EPA

Action Follows Decades of Efforts by Maryland Department of Environment to Reduce Pollution Transported into the State

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan today directed Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to file suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to act on a petition requiring power plants in five upwind states to reduce pollution that significantly affects the quality of the air that Marylanders breathe.

The petition, filed in November 2016 by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, requests the EPA to require certain power plant units in the upwind states to run their air pollution controls to reduce emissions. The EPA's approval of the petition is critical to protecting the health of Marylanders and is important to a healthy Maryland economy. Ground-level ozone, or smog, has been one of Maryland's most pervasive and challenging air pollution problems. About 70 percent of Maryland's ozone problem originates from emissions in upwind states.

"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," said Governor Hogan. "We strongly urge the EPA to approve the petition and enforce the air pollution controls, already in place in Maryland, at upwind out-of-state facilities that threaten the health of Maryland citizens and our economy."

The filings of the petition and the related lawsuit come after decades of efforts by the Maryland Department of the Environment to influence the reduction in air pollution transported into Maryland from upwind states. MDE has pursued, and will continue to pursue, voluntary and collaborative efforts with partner states to ensure power plants upwind meet the same stringent standards that Maryland has implemented.

"The Maryland Department of the Environment has been working with upwind states to reduce smog that threatens our citizens, communities, and the Chesapeake Bay, but we now need the EPA to step in to ensure the good neighbor provisions of the federal Clean Air Act are fully realized," said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. "We're not asking for anything that we're not already doing in Maryland. This common-sense approach—running the pollution controls that are already installed but are not always being used in out-of-state power plants—is one of the smartest ways we can protect our citizens' lungs and level the playing field for businesses."

In January, the EPA issued itself a six-month extension to the original 60-day deadline to respond to the November 2016 petition, requiring EPA action by July 15. That deadline expired with no EPA action on the petition. Maryland then notified the EPA of intention to file suit unless the federal regulatory agency took the required actions before the end of the applicable notice period. Maryland is to file suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland under section 304 of the Clean Air Act.

Research shows 36 out-of-state power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia emit pollution that contributes at times to poor air quality in Maryland, the petition states. Though Maryland has made dramatic progress on air quality in recent years, emissions from out-of-state sources could prevent Maryland from attaining and maintaining federal health-based air quality standards.

The comprehensive petition includes data showing the power plants have stopped running their pollution controls effectively. A requirement to run those controls throughout the summer "ozone season" is identical to what Maryland's largest coal-fired power plants must do under regulations implemented in 2015 by the Hogan administration.

EPA approval of the petition is important to a healthy Maryland economy. In recent years, Maryland has been required to find deeper in-state emissions reductions to compensate for the pollution that comes from other states—placing a regulatory burden on Maryland's business community, including small businesses.

EPA approval of the petition would also help in the multi-state restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Up to a third of the nitrogen pollution in the Bay comes from air pollution.

Since taking office, Governor Hogan and the administration have taken substantial action to preserve and protect the environment. In 2015, Maryland adopted some of the country's strictest regulations on nitrogen oxide pollution emitting from Maryland power plants. In 2016, Governor Hogan enacted the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act, which implemented an aggressive new state goal for reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases. Earlier this year, Governor Hogan announced that Maryland joined with the other eight states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in agreeing to reduce the program's carbon pollution cap by 30 percent from 2020 to 2030.

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