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City incinerators sue Baltimore over Clean Air Act

Baltimore incinerators and trade associations filed suit against the city over its recent emissions mandates Tuesday, alleging the Baltimore Clean Air Act is illegal and conflicts with existing state and federal requirements.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Wheelabrator Baltimore L.P. and Curtis Bay Energy L.P., incinerator operators, as well as a trash removal company and two trade associations. They claim the ordinance is not a good-faith effort to regulate emissions but rather a targeted attempt to close the Wheelabrator and Curtis Bay facilities.

“The City’s ordinance, which will cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, sets arbitrary standards,” Wheelabrator said in a statement. “In contrast, the existing stringent limits in federal and state regulations are based upon evidence-based scientific studies that aggressively protect public health and the environment by requiring installation and operation of the best available pollution control technologies.”

City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said Thursday the city was anticipating the lawsuit and would respond in court.

The complaint alleges the ordinance, passed in February and signed into law in March, “imposes extraordinary and unprecedented constraints that do not advance public health, are not science- or fact-based, and in fact are in furtherance of an agenda to close the Facilities regardless of the consequences to residents and businesses in Baltimore City and beyond.”

The ordinance, which the plaintiffs say was introduced and passed “on a rushed schedule” without proper scientific evaluation, “imposes air emission limits that are far more stringent than those required by the existing comprehensive federal and Maryland state air laws” as well as criminal penalties for violations.

The facilities claim they would need to shut down temporarily, at a minimum, to comply with the ordinance and Wheelabrator alleges it could be forced out of business. Both say they are in compliance with current state and federal emissions requirements.

The lawsuit contends the city is preempted from attempting to regulate a field that the state and federal governments are already comprehensively regulating.

Wheelabrator is also in litigation with Baltimore County over decreasing delivery volume, allegedly in breach of the county’s contract. The facility filed suit in April claiming it would sustain more than $32 million in damages if the county’s current and anticipated failure to meet minimum volume requirements continued.

The county announced Nov. 30 that it would no longer deliver waste to Wheelabrator’s facility.

The case is Wheelabrator Baltimore L.P. et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 1:19-cv-01264.


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