Sierra Club blasts Governor Hogan on clean air protections

| January 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sierra-Club-LogoLast week, after more than fifteen months of intensive engagement with industry and the public health community, Maryland’s Department of the Environment finalized new protections against air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants. These safeguards would protect Marylanders from harmful smog pollution, which is responsible for a host of adverse health effects, including triggering asthma attacks, especially in vulnerable populations such as children. 

The Baltimore Sun reported that the Governor’s first move in office was to take the controversial action of yanking those protections at the printing press. This action was taken after the regulations were signed and finalized by Secretary of the Environment.

Health leaders in the state were dismayed to learn about the withdrawal of these vital public health protections. The safeguards had drawn strong support from health officials, faith leaders, Maryland residents, and plant owner Raven Power.  

Health Statistics and Background:

  • Eighty-six percent of Marylanders–more than 5 million people–live in areas with air that is currently classified by EPA as unsafe to breathe for smog. 
  • The Baltimore area in particular consistently records the worst air quality in the Eastern US.
  • 28% of Baltimore school children report having incidence of asthma.

In September, the Maryland Medical Society passed a resolution calling for modern pollution control technologies in Maryland. The Society noted that, among other health concerns, this pollution “increase[s] respiratory symptoms, emergency room visits and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses especially in asthmatics, children and the elderly.”

In response, Maryland Sierra Club Director Josh Tulkin issued the following statement. 

“We are disappointed that Governor Hogan’s first act in office is to delay these vital protections for Marylanders’ health and clean air. Marylanders are suffering every day from unhealthy air.

These regulations have broad public support, and are the product of several years of work.  Over 70 elected officials wrote a letter favoring these safeguards, which were also supported by Maryland businesses, including Raven Power, one of the key companies that will implement them at their coal plants.

These essential safeguards, which under the compromise would have given plant owners multiple options and until 2020 to implement fully, would have finally brought Maryland up to speed with the modern pollution control technology that is more prevalent in coal-heavy states like Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia than Maryland. That’s why the state’s independent air advisory quality body supported them unanimously. 

During his inaugural address yesterday, Governor Hogan pledged to improve government efficiency and ‘build better communities, better businesses, and better lives for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.’ Yanking clean air protections with such strong support is not an effective use of government time or public funds, and drops the ball on progress for children’s health.

Right now it appears that major corporate polluter NRG Energy, the only one opposed to the protections, is successfully lobbying the Governor for dirty air and weak health safeguards, while 85% of Maryland residents still live in areas that are failing to achieve EPA’s health-based air quality standards for smog. NRG has not been consistently operating its existing pollution controls at full tilt. NRG opposes these protections because it will require them to install modern controls and run them if they continue to burn dirty fuel.”

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