Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's administration announced plans Thursday to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, if the agency doesn't respond to Maryland's request to make sure power plants in neighboring states use pollution controls.
Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, notified the agency of the state's plans in a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
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"We need the EPA to step in to ensure that these power plants run their pollution controls on a daily basis," Grumbles said in an interview. "We're in discussions with the states. We need EPA to step in and help. We have the data, and it's clear, and the pollution is coming from these power plants."
Maryland petitioned the EPA in November for a finding that 36 power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are emitting air pollution affecting the state's air quality in violation of the law known as the "good neighbor provision." In January, the EPA issued a six-month extension to act, setting a July 15 deadline that has expired without required EPA action.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a conservation group, indicated it also planned to sue the EPA over the issue. The foundation noted that the state had forecast a Code Red Air Quality Alert on Thursday for Baltimore.
"We join and wholeheartedly support Maryland in its effort to protect the health of its residents and the Chesapeake Bay against upwind, out-of-state power plants which choose to make higher profits rather than turn on their pollution controls during hot summer months," said Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation at the foundation.
Mueller said 19 upwind power plants have installed pollution controls, but they often decide not to turn on the technology.
About 70 percent of Maryland's ozone problem comes from upwind plants, Mueller added.
"Maryland power companies have taken responsibility for proper pollution controls at their plants, and air quality has improved significantly in the state in the past 10 years," Mueller said. "Now upwind power plants in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia need to put human health above profits."