ANNAPOLIS – Emissions of two common pollutants from coal-fired power plants would be capped starting in 2008 under legislation proposed Tuesday by a Bowie delegate.
The legislation, proposed by Delegate James Hubbard, D-Bowie, comes on the heels of EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s appearance at the State House Tuesday to promote the Bush administration’s Clear Skies initiative.
That initiative and other federal government programs aren’t doing enough to curb air pollution, Hubbard said, citing the EPA’s decision to roll back rules governing pollution control upgrades at older, dirtier plants, a program known as New Source Review.
Pollution drifting in from the Ohio Valley is a particular concern, he said, and Maryland will have to work harder to meet federal air quality standards because of it.
“If we’re not going to have a federal policy (that solves this), then unfortunately the only way we’re going to get attainment is through our own policy,” he said.
Hubbard’s legislation targets two pollutants – sulfur dioxide, a major component in acid rain, and nitrogen oxide, which creates both ground-level ozone and nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas are considered severe ground ozone problem areas by the EPA, and the state must bring the pollution under control by 2005 or risk losing federal transportation dollars.
But the federal government already regulates these emissions, and more state laws will only end up putting a bigger burden on Maryland’s power producers, said Douglas Biden, president of the Electric Power Generation Association.
The cost of dealing with new regulations could put Maryland power companies at a competitive disadvantage with companies outside the state as deregulation comes into effect, he said. He declined to comment on specifics in the bill, which he had not yet seen.
Each power plant receives its own licenses and permits right now, instead of there being a single across-the-board cap on emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, said Donna Heron, an EPA spokeswoman.
Hubbard’s proposal would introduce the caps in two stages, phasing in the nitrogen oxide cap between 2008 and 2010, and the sulfur dioxide cap between 2010 and 2014.
Companies that produced more than 75,000 tons of nitrogen oxide in 2000 would have to reduce that to less than 31,000 by 2010, while companies under the 75,000-ton limit in 2000 would have to cut back to under 25,000 tons by 2008.
For sulfur dioxide, the dividing line would be 225,000 tons, with companies above that level being limited to 80,000 tons by 2014 and companies under 225,000 tons being limited to 50,000 tons by 2014.
In 2001, power plants released about 72,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and about 254,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, according to EPA figures.
If the legislation passes, affected companies would have to file compliance plans with the state by the end of the year.
Ten states, including Maryland, filed suit recently against the EPA, to block the agency from relaxing the New Source Review rules, which are effective March 3.