ANNAPOLIS – A bill to reinstate the Maryland Department of the Environment’s authority to issue air pollution permits is scheduled to reach the House of Delegates floor Friday.
The House Environmental Matters Committee Wednesday unanimously approved the measure, just five days after the bill was introduced on the first day of the General Assembly session.
“I think the chances (of the bill passing the House) are excellent,” said Chairman John A. Hurson, D-Montgomery. “There really isn’t any opposition.”
The bill also has the support of Gov. Parris N. Glendening and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.
The Maryland Department of the Environment was stripped of its authority to issue air pollution permits last December when it failed to comply with Title V of the Clean Air Act. The act regulates the states’ largest air emission sources.
Maryland law previously only allowed adjacent property owners to object to a permit application from industrial plants and other facilities. The bill would broaden citizen rights to complain.
As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took over Maryland’s air pollution permit program. Even though the EPA had assumed control, the federal agency still delegated authority to the Maryland Department of Environment to process applications following federal standards.
EPA’s action came from a lawsuit settlement with the Sierra Club, which sued the federal agency for its failure to force compliance with Title V. Under the settlement, 35 states had until Dec. 1, 2001, to complete compliance with federal standards.
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