ANNAPOLIS – Two of Maryland’s largest power providers own generating stations targeted by an environmental group as among the top 100 older polluting plants for their release of tons of pollutants through purported abuses of loopholes in the Clean Air Act.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.’s Brandon Shore plant in Anne Arundel County and Potomac Electric Power Co.’s Morgantown and Chalk Point plants in Charles County released several times more nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in 1999 than newer plants are permitted to emit under federal regulations, according to a report by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.
The companies violated no laws or regulations. The older plants were exempted from recent more stringent federal regulations.
MaryPIRG said the offending plants also released enough mercury and carbon dioxide in 1999 to join the top 100 for those categories.
These pollutants contribute to smog, global warming, acid rain, asthma attacks and premature death, according to the report.
The 594 “dirty” power plants surveyed by MaryPIRG’s national office emitted 61 percent of the nation’s sulfur dioxide, the major component of soot, in 1999, the report said.
“Pollution from power plants is a major cause of ill health and environmental pollution in the United States,” said MaryPIRG’s energy advocate, Dan Shawhan.
PEPCO’s Morgantown Plant in Charles County released about 75,000 tons of sulfur dioxide last year – two-thirds of which would be illegal under federal laws applying to new power plants.
The company’s Chalk Point plant released about 57,000 tons of the substance, while BG&E’s Brandon Shore’s plant released 54,491 tons. Most of that also would be prohibited under current rules, the report said.
PEPCO’s Chalk Point plant has been in the news recently for the leak of about 111,000 gallons of oil into the Potomac River, one of the worst oil spills in Maryland in years.
MaryPIRG’s report was panned by the companies.
BG&E called the report “misleading,” in a written statement. “No plant is exempt from meeting the Clean Air Act,” officials said. BG&E is developing equipment for use by May 2001 to reduce its Brandon Shore plant’s nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent.
PEPCO denied any intentional abuse of loopholes at its three Maryland plants. “We consider ourselves to be a good environmental citizen,” said spokesman David L. Moorehead. “We maintain our plants to meet federal and state standards and comply with all laws and regulations.”
Eight other Maryland power plants produced enough pollutants to exceed modern emission standards. PEPCO owns one and BG&E owns three of those plants. Northern State of Baltimore County and A&E Electric Cooperative of Dorchester and Somerset counties manage the others, the report said.
MaryPIRG says it hopes the study will convince federal lawmakers to enact tough legislation on older power plants.
A pending bill in Congress, sponsored by Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R- Kennedyville, would require power plants to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 75 percent of 1997 levels by 2005. The bill also would set tough nationwide caps on mercury and carbon dioxide.
MaryPIRG urges the state’s other federal representatives to back the bill.