They may be competing for the same position, but five of the 11 candidates running for the District 10 seat on the Baltimore City Council have joined forces to urge Baltimore’s top attorney to support the Baltimore Clean Air Act after a federal judge overturned the law last week.
Candidates Bill Marker, Natasha Guynes, Ray Conaway, Kerry Hamilton and Bob Cockey–who are all vying for the city council seat currently held by soon-to-be-retired Councilman Ed Reisinger–sent the letter to Acting Baltimore City Solicitor Dana P. More, calling on the city to appeal the judge’s decision.
“It is a testament to the importance of this issue that we are taking the exceedingly rare step of joining together, as competitors, in common purpose in this request,” the candidates wrote. “We seek election to better serve all residents of Baltimore, as you and your staff serve us.”
U.S District Judge George L. Russell III ruled last Friday that the law undermined state and federal authority over compliance with national air quality standards.
The Baltimore City Council passed the Baltimore Clean Air Act in February 2019 and former Mayor Catherine Pugh signed it into law shortly thereafter.
The law placed stricter emissions restrictions on two incinerators in South Baltimore: the BRESCO trash incinerator, owned by New Hampshire-based company Wheelabrator Technologies, and a medical waste incinerator owned by Curtis Bay Energy.
Those companies sued the city in April 2019 over the law.
For years South Baltimore residents have complained about the BRESCO incinerator, whose white smokestack is visible from I-95, saying its emissions have given them higher rates of asthma and other health issues.
One South Baltimore resident said in 2018 that her children couldn’t go outside to play because of the emissions that the incinerator produces.
But Wheelabrator argued that it cannot afford the necessary changes to the 35-year-old incinerator to comply with the new restrictions.
The incinerator is responsible for burning a majority of Baltimore’s household trash, as well as smaller amounts from other counties and states, with more than 700,000 tons of solid waste passing through the facility each year.
In burning trash, the facility creates steam to heat buildings downtown. But it also releases pollutants, such as sulfur, mercury, formaldehyde and lead.
Russell wrote in his ruling that the law would make the incinerator’s operations more costly, and the Maryland Department of the Environment is required to set standards that are “not more restrictive than necessary” to meet federal air quality standards.
The city council candidates wrote in their letter to Moore that their district “is the epicenter of environmental harm caused by local incinerators” and legislation like the Baltimore Clean Air Act could “finally bring communities like ours the help we need to stop further damage.”
They called on Moore’s office “to stand with us and continue to defend Baltimore’s Clean Air Act.”