Maryland is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act on a petition requiring power plants in five upwind states to reduce pollution, the state's attorney general and an official in Gov. Larry Hogan's administration said Wednesday.
The Hogan administration says 70 percent of Maryland's ozone problem originates in upwind states.
Maryland petitioned the EPA in November for a finding that 36 power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are emitting air pollution affecting Maryland in violation of the Clean Air Act's "good neighbor provision." In January, the EPA issued a six-month extension to the act, setting a July 15 deadline that Maryland officials say expired without action being taken.
"We're saying in the lawsuit: EPA failed to do its job," said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat. "We're getting pollution from these other states. We asked them to do something about it, and they did nothing. They didn't hold a hearing. They didn't issue orders to Kentucky or Pennsylvania or any of their utilities to reduce their emissions, and so I'm not sure what their response is going to be, but it's a very straightforward matter. We're right. We're breathing their polluted air and they've got to stop."
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Maryland. The EPA did not immediately respond to an email request for comment about the lawsuit.
Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the power plants have installed technology to control pollution, but unlike facilities in Maryland, they do not use the technology during key times, such as the hot summer months.
"We're asking the EPA to step in and make sure that those facilities do the same thing that we're doing in Maryland, and it makes a big difference for us downwind," Grumbles said. "We know that those controls, if they're run continuously, will make a difference: help us attain our ozone standard and also help protect the lungs and waterways of Maryland."
Hogan, a Republican, said the lack of EPA action threatens significant progress Maryland has made in recent years to improve air quality.
"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," Hogan said in a statement.
Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, noted that the Baltimore area had 14 days of Code Orange Air Quality Alerts this summer, meaning there was unhealthy air pollution for children and seniors.
"Living downwind of those plants, Marylanders suffer," Muller said. "In 2014, these plants earned an extra $24 million in profits by not turning on the technology. Pollution from out-of-state power plants also harms our in-state streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay."
Grumbles said two other states— Delaware and Connecticut — have petitioned the EPA under provisions in the Clean Air Act in recent years to get a facility upwind to run its pollution controls or install technology. He said Maryland's lawsuit will be broader, because it involves 19 power plants with 36 units in five states.