Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (July 21, 2011) – As Maryland continues to experience extremely high temperatures that contribute to poor air quality, the Maryland Department of the Environment today reported that the State’s power plants are reducing large amounts of air pollution through the Healthy Air Act, which took effect starting in 2009.

"The good news for Marylanders, particularly on Code Orange air quality days like today, is that we are making enormous strides in reducing pollutants that are harmful to public health as well as to the Chesapeake Bay and our local waterways," said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. "Thanks to the Maryland Healthy Air Act, the toughest power plant law on the East Coast, today we are seeing as much as 80 and 90 percent reductions in toxic and harmful air pollutants compared to just two years ago."

Compared to 2009 air emissions levels, data from the last four quarters show mercury emissions have been reduced by 88 percent (953 pounds per year to 110 pounds per year) and hydrochloric acid (HCl) reduced by 83 percent (an estimated 6,734 tons compared to 1,116 tons), with some individual power plants achieving a 95 percent reduction in HCl.

Data also show nitrogen oxide (NOx) has been reduced by 64 percent from 2006 levels (54,318 tons per year to 19,481 tons per year), the last year prior to the installation of equipment to reduce NOx emissions. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) has been reduced by 86 percent from 2009 levels (199,000 tons per year to 27,300 tons per year), the last year prior to the installation of equipment to reduce sulfur emissions. These pollutants harm public health and water quality.

Secretary Summers continued: "The bad news is that a large amount of Maryland’s air pollution continues to come from out-of-state. Air pollution does not stop at a State’s borders. While Maryland power plants have invested more than $2 billion in pollution controls to comply with Maryland's Healthy Air Act, similar investments have not been made in upwind states. That’s why we strongly support proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency to set stricter air pollution limits. The federal rules would begin to level the playing field and ensure that appropriate controls are required across the country."

As much as 70 percent of the air pollution in Maryland comes from out-of-state power plants. Maryland is working with other Northeast regional states through the Ozone Transport Commission to compel the U.S. EPA to address upwind States’ air pollution.

Maryland’s Healthy Air Act required major reductions in air pollutants to be phased in at Maryland power plants starting in 2009 with additional reductions in 2012 and 2013. At full implementation, the Healthy Air Act will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 75 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by approximately 85 percent from 2002 levels. Mercury emissions will be reduced by 90 percent.

Long-term historical mercury emission levels in Maryland generally approached one ton from coal-fired power plants in Maryland each year. In 2009, mercury emissions were half the historical levels. The most recent four quarters of data show that the level is now down to 110 pounds a year, due to implementation of the Healthy Air Act.

Mercury accumulates in fish tissue. Ten species of fish are subject to mercury consumption advisories in Maryland, and large fish in nearly all Maryland lakes and impoundments are impaired for mercury.

SO2 and NOx contribute to the formation of fine particles and NOx contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone. Fine particles and ground-level ozone are associated with thousands of premature deaths and illnesses nationally each year. In Maryland alone, as many as 390 premature deaths are anticipated each year as a result of fine particles and ground-level ozone. Additionally, these pollutants reduce visibility and damage sensitive ecosystems.

More than one-third of the nitrogen pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay originates from air pollution. The significant reductions in the Healthy Air Act are a critical component of Maryland meeting its Chesapeake Bay milestones and complying with the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) "pollution diet."