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Hogan directs Frosh to sue EPA over out-of-state emissions

Gov. Larry Hogan directed Attorney General Brian Frosh on Wednesday to file suit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the lack of response by regulators to act on pollution complaints dating to 2016 against three dozen out-of-state power plants.

Gov. Larry Hogan, left, and Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Gov. Larry Hogan, left, and Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

The announcement by Hogan, a Republican, came nearly three months after alerting the EPA that the state was considering legal action. It’s the second time in a month that Hogan has asked that legal action be filed against the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.

“Maryland has made significant progress in improving our air quality in recent years, and that progress is in jeopardy due to a lack of action by the EPA that dates back to the previous administration,” Hogan said in a statement. “We strongly urge the EPA to approve the petition and enforce the air pollution controls, already in place in Maryland, at upwind out-of-state facilities that threaten the health of Maryland citizens and our economy.”

The EPA did not have an immediate response to the state’s announcement.

In his statement, Hogan cited smog as one of the state’s “most pervasive and challenging air pollution problems.”

Hogan said 70 percent of the state’s air pollution problem comes from out-of-state emissions.

The state in November filed a complaint with the EPA claiming that three dozen power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were emitting nitrogen oxides in violation of the Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision.

“Emissions from power plants in surrounding states pollute Maryland’s air and violate the law,” Frosh said after filing the complaint.

He added that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “failed to stop these violations, ignoring our request to require those power plants to comply with the Clean Air Act.  This federal law is supposed to protect everyone against the harm of breathing polluted air, so the federal government must ensure that power plants everywhere be held accountable.”

State officials have alleged pollution from plants in those five states is to blame for Maryland to failing to meet federal air quality requirements.

Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation applauded the move saying that Maryland has attempted to reduce air pollution on its own but is now being impacted by companies outside the state.

“EPA has the authority, and the responsibility, to address these upwind sources, but has failed to even respond to Maryland’s ‘good neighbor’ petition, which requests relief from the upwind air pollution,” Mueller said. “Nineteen upwind power plants in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana already have pollution controls installed, but they simply decide not to use them some days. Living downwind of those plants, Marylanders suffer. In 2014, these plants earned an extra $24 million in profits by not turning on the technology.”


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