Legislative Comittee Approves Clean Air Regulations to Reduce Pollution From State’s Coal-Fired Power Plants and Protect Public Health

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Jay Apperson

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jay.apperson@maryland.gov

Legislative Comittee Approves Clean Air Regulations to Reduce Pollution From State’s Coal-Fired Power Plants and Protect Public Health

Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review approves emergency action that implements new requirements for summer ozone season

Baltimore, MD (May 1, 2015) – Regulations proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment to ensure the immediate public health benefits of protecting Marylanders from breathing unhealthy levels of air pollution were approved today.

The regulations were included in an emergency action to implement new requirements for Maryland’s coal-fired power plants for the summer 2015 ozone season. The Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) approved the regulations.

The regulations implement for this summer’s ozone season the immediate public health protections contained in a previous proposal that had been held for further review. The regulations are designed to ensure that coal-fired power plants are optimizing current pollution controls to minimize emissions during the summer 2015 ozone season.  The action is expected to reduce NOx emissions significantly to provide immediate, additional public health protection and to be part of a series of initiatives that will allow Maryland to attain and maintain compliance with the current health-based, federal standard for ozone pollution. Continued reductions are necessary because the EPA is expected to propose a new, more stringent ozone standard this year.

Emergency regulations such as those approved today take effect as soon as approved by AELR but are later published in the Maryland Register. The emergency regulations approved today are expected to be published in the May 29 Maryland Register.

MDE will also work with all stakeholders to determine the best approach to provide greater public health protections by 2020 while also providing flexibility to support a health economy and protect jobs. Options that will be considered include moving ahead with the requirements as previously proposed for future years or with a revised proposed regulation that would lead to new emissions reductions in the 2016-2018 timeframe and further reductions in 2020 that provide equal or greater public health protection than the previous proposal. MDE expects to move forward with this second step over the next few months, with plans to make a formal proposal by early fall 2015.

Maryland is also working to reduce ozone levels through new efforts to reduce emissions from mobile sources such as cars and trucks and an increased emphasis on reducing emissions in states that are upwind of Maryland.

“Throughout this process, the Department of the Environment has been and will remain committed to moving forward as quickly as possible while working to seek consensus with all interested parties,” said MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Now that the committee has approved these immediate controls for cleaner air, we’re committed to finding the best path forward for longer-term controls and collaborations with neighboring and upwind states to protect air quality well into the future.”

Reducing air pollution improves public health. Unhealthy levels of ozone can irritate the respiratory system — causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains and aggravating asthma and other chronic lung diseases.  Ozone and other air pollutants have also been linked to premature death.

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