After a year of federal inaction on states’ damaging coal-fired power plant emissions, Maryland’s attorney general, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others are taking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to court.
The original problem, they argue, is that Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are continuing to produce electricity from 19 coal-fired power plants without trying to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions. Those pollutants are drifting en masse into Maryland’s air, hurting the state’s chances of improving its air quality and degrading the Chesapeake Bay ecosystems by spawning dead zones by fueling algal blooms.
By allowing this to happen, Maryland has argued they’re violating the 1963 Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor provision,” which requires all states to address their air pollution drifting across state lines. Attorney General Brian Frosh asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find the states in violation of the law last November, but the agency deferred by extending its response deadline six months, and then never did anything about it.
Frosh filed his lawsuit last week. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation followed suit in a separate effort yesterday.
“The lawsuit today supports the state’s decisive step,” said Jon Mueller, the foundation’s vice president of litigation, in a statement. “It also highlights how the same pollutants harming our children are degrading water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers and streams. Fish are having as much trouble breathing as people because of these 19 power plants.”
Co-plaintiffs in the foundation’s lawsuit include the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Adirondack Council.
The foundation noted that by employing pollution-control technologies – the EPA lists a few examples, such as a “selective catalytic reduction system” and controls for combustion – throughout the summer, all five states could keep burning their coal while making Maryland’s air and water healthier in the process.