52 Legislators Call on Governor To Clean MD's Air

Update to Energy Committee (list servs) on our priorities

On Wednesday, a group of Maryland politicians took a stand on the state’s unacceptable levels of air pollution by sending a letter voicing their support for stronger pollution controls on Maryland’s coal-fired power plants.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has drafted stronger pollution controls to cut down on the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by the state’s coal plants; both of these pollutants contribute to smog-filled air that is classified as unsafe to breathe by the EPA1, and approximately 86 percent of Maryland residents are exposed to this dirty air every day.

It is hoped that the support of 10 state senators, 33 state delegates, and several council members from Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties will encourage Governor Martin O’Malley to support the MDE’s stronger pollution controls and stand firm against opposition from coal industry lobbyists and their legislative backers.

[picture - District 39 Delegate Shane Robinson Signed The Letter to O'Malley]

The letter calls on Governor O’Malley to expedite the MDE’s proposed pollution controls on Maryland’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, which would have all the state’s coal plants utilizing new technologies to reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide within two years. It highlights the fact that the coal plants are Maryland’s largest single source of air pollution, and that such pollution contributes to high levels of respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other related conditions, and that such adverse health consequences disproportionately affect poor and minority communities in the state. “The impacts of breathing unsafe air are being disproportionately felt by children and people of color, with African-American Marylanders four times more likely than whites to experience an asthma-related emergency room visit”, the letter reads.

Several of the letter’s signatories made statements to emphasize their support for the MDE’s proposed regulations. Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County’s 11th district, a physician by trade, highlighted the negative health consequences of Maryland’s poor air quality when he said, “As the only physician in the Maryland General Assembly, I’ve seen the ravages of air pollution all firsthand. Maryland families suffer from extremely poor air quality, and it is taking its toll on our health. Smog and sulfur dioxide pollution contribute to more severe asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even premature death from heart and lung disease. Every day that we breathe this pollution, it leads to more lost work days and lost school days that we can never get back.” District 14’s Delegate Eric Luedtke focused on the social justice aspects of air pollution by saying, “This is a social justice issue - those Marylanders who are most harmed by this kind of pollution are from poor and minority communities, the elderly, and children. Every Marylander deserves to breathe clean air. I hope the Department issues the kind of strong pollution limits our citizens deserve.” Both delegates made it clear that they consider cleaner air in Maryland a priority.

The effort by these public figures to support cleaner air in Maryland will hopefully be the push needed to ensure that the MDE succeeds in putting stronger pollution controls on Maryland’s dirty coal plants, so that we can all breathe a little easier in the coming years. Sierra Club members can find some encouragement in O’Malley’s commitment to clean energy and clean air in his veto of House Bill 1168, which proposed a moratorium on the construction of the Great Bay Wind project, and hopefully O’Malley’s principled stand on the environment will continue with the adoption of stronger pollution controls on our coal-fired power plants.

Written by Adam Windram, MD Beyond Coal Team Volunteer

 1 - EPA’s Greenbook, available at: http://www.epa.gov/oaqps001/greenbk/ancl.html and the United States Census (2013).