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Legislative Issue: The Healthy Air Act
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17, 2006

Learn about how the CCE wants to clean up our air, reduce Maryland's contribution to global warming, and reduce smog and soot with the Healthy Air Act.

 The Clean Air Act of 1970 was intended to require best available technology to reduce air pollution from power plants, but loopholes and lax implementation have delayed real action.  Maryland has taken many important steps to reduce air pollution, but has virtually ignored some of the most important measures, including reductions at our oldest power plants. If we are going to meet federal air quality standards, reduce the dead zone in the bay, make fish safe to eat, and take our first steps toward reducing Maryland’s contribution to global warming, we must reduce power plant pollution.   


    Just like lead, mercury’s ability to stunt the growth of the developing brain makes it especially harmful to young children. Research indicates that an estimated one in six women of childbearing age have blood-mercury levels that may put their children at risk of learning or developmental problems.  Exposure to mercury results primarily from eating contaminated fish. MDE has issued fish consumption advisories for mercury that cover every river and lake in the entire state, in addition to one for rockfish (striped bass) in the Chesapeake Bay.  

    Power plants are Maryland’s top source of mercury pollution, responsible for 66 percent of the state’s total mercury emissions. From there it drifts into water bodies and accumulates in the tissues of aquatic life. Research has shown that local sources – within 60 miles – cause local mercury pollution.

    Global Warming

    Maryland is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The farming and fishing communities located around Maryland’s 3,100 miles of coastline will be drastically affected by the rising sea levels and severe weather caused by global warming. Global warming also causes increased spread of infectious disease and worsened air pollution due to higher temperatures.  

    Power plants are responsible for 39 percent of emissions of carbon dioxide, the main pollutant that is causing global warming. To curb global warming, we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Maryland power plants.  Seven states from Maine to Delaware recently finalized the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will reduce global warming pollution from power plants by 10 percent by 2018.  Maryland is not part of that structure. 

    Smog and Soot

    Smog and soot in Maryland cause an estimated 17,000 asthma attacks and 700 premature deaths each year. Smog also leads to the onset of asthma, which now afflicts 150,000 children in Maryland. More than 1.1 million Maryland children live within thirty miles of a power plant, the area in which the greatest health impacts are felt. Maryland’s seven oldest power plants are responsible for 86 percent of the nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from the electric utility industry. 

    Installing modern pollution controls on these seven plants would result in an estimated 500 fewer premature deaths caused by Maryland power plant emissions per year, and reduce the number of asthma attacks by 10,000 per year. The benefits of these reductions would be $3.5 billion per year. 

    The Healthy Air Act requires power plants to reduce emissions of the four main pollutants – mercury, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur - that come from the seven dirtiest power plants in Maryland.  It would require state of the art technology for mercury, nitrogen, and sulfur at each plant, and require Maryland to become a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or establish an equivalent program within the state.  

For more information:

Brad Heavner, MaryPIRG, 410-467-0439,

Olivia Campbell, NWF, 202-797-6890,

Josh Tulkin, CCAN, 301-891-6726,

Ed Osann, NRDC, 301-535-4013, 

> 2006 Table of Contents


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