Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (March 21, 2007) – Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson announced that Maryland filed a motion today to join a lawsuit with other state and municipal governments and environmental organizations challenging EPA’s regulations governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The lawsuit seeks a court order to overturn the rules and require EPA to establish tighter limits on mercury emissions from power plants.

The government petitioners assert that the cap-and-trade program established by the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants violates the Clean Air Act and fails to sufficiently reduce mercury emissions. Under EPA’s mercury rule, power plants can elect to achieve compliance through the purchase of emission allowances rather than through installation of local pollution controls, which will result in increased mercury emissions and local “hotspots” of mercury deposition.

“State-of-the-art power plant controls must be installed on all power plants and in a faster time frame than required by EPA,” said MDE Secretary Wilson. “By enacting the Healthy Air Act, Maryland has demonstrated that significant reductions in mercury emissions from power plants can be achieved in a timely manner without causing power plants to shut down.”

The newly enacted Healthy Air Act marks an important step for Maryland toward reducing mercury emissions from its own coal-fired power plants. By 2010, coal-fired power plants subject to the Act will be required to reduce mercury emissions by 80 percent from current levels, and in 2013, by 90 percent from current levels through the installation of pollution control technology. In contrast, the emission caps established by CAMR will only achieve a 21 percent reduction in mercury emissions by the 2010 phase one deadline and a 69 percent reduction when the phase two reductions are fully implemented.

“Maryland is the primary steward of the Chesapeake Bay. We have a new Governor and new Attorney General who concur that participation in this case is important to protect the State’s interests to safeguard its water resources and the health of its citizens,” said Secretary Wilson.

“Maryland remains adversely impacted by transport of mercury emissions from upwind out-of-state power plants,” said Secretary Wilson. “MDE strongly believes that a federal regulation is necessary to control mercury emissions in other states by requiring installation of state-of-the-art pollution control technology on all coal-fired power plants.”

As Mayor of the City of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley was the first Mayor to join states in this federal lawsuit to reduce dangerous mercury emissions and protect Maryland’s air quality.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the United States. Mercury settles in waterways and accumulates in fish. In people who eat those fish, the toxic metal can cause neurological and developmental problems, particularly in fetuses and children.