Sierra Club, Physicians group to sue Maryland governor over clean air issues

The Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility announced April 22 that they plan to sue Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for failing to implement new clean air protections to clean up coal-fired power plants that had been finalized and adopted prior to Hogan taking office.

The Sierra Club and the Physicians group, represented legally by Earthjustice, said they will sue Hogan, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Maryland Division of State Documents.

On April 22, the public health and environmental groups submitted a 30-day notice of their intent to file a lawsuit, as mandated under Maryland law, to require the publication and enforcement of the adopted clean air protections.

Currently, five million Marylanders live in areas that have been designated as having unhealthy levels of smog in the air. The clean air protections at issue would reduce smog in areas including Baltimore and surrounding counties which were assigned the worst smog designation east of the Mississippi River by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the groups said in a news release.

After a lengthy stakeholder process that garnered the support of public health advocates, Maryland’s independent air quality advisory council, The Maryland State Medical Society, and the owner of three large coal plants in the state, the MDE finalized the standards, known as the nitrogen oxide (NOx) Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) rule.

That rule was adopted by the agency on Jan. 16, 2015 and submitted that same day for publication in the Maryland Register.

On Gov. Hogan’s first day in office, however, he issued a directive to the Division of State Documents blocking publication of the rule. In their 30-day notice of intent to sue letter, Sierra Club and CPSR make clear that the Governor lacked the authority to block these safeguards, and that the Division of State Documents is legally required to publish the rule so that it can be enforced.

In recent days the MDE under Hogan announced a plan to move forward with a dramatically weakened version of the regulations through a non-public “emergency” rulemaking process.

The notice of intent to sue comes only a couple of days after the Sierra Club had criticized Hogan’s emergency regulations that put the brakes on the NOx pollution rules.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.