General Assembly Clears Way For Coal Plant Pollution Regs

A legislative committee responsible for reviewing state regulations has lifted its “hold” on air pollution proposals affecting coal-powered plants.

A November 5, 2015, Baltimore Sun article announced that the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review have released a hold on regulations proposed by Governor Larry Hogan to set new air pollution limits on coal-burning power plants.  The Joint Committee imposed the block after a third-party study asserted that the proposed Hogan regulations were weaker than those previously proposed by former Governor Martin O’Malley.  Hogan repealed the O’Malley regulations shortly before they were to take effect. From the article:

In a one-sentence letter to Environment Secretary Benjamin H. Grumbles, the heads of the [Joint Committee] released the hold they had placed on the smog rule just a few days earlier, questioning its strength.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, the panel’s co-chairman, said he and Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat, had held up the rule only so they could schedule a hearing to air concerns about the rule that were raised by a third-party review the committee had requested.

Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said by email Thursday night that the hearing “will be announced shortly.” He offered no further comment. …

The article stated that the study was conducted by consultant Bruce Buckheit, a former chief of air pollution enforcement at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  Buckheit was recommended by the Sierra Club.  From the article:

Buckheit concluded that the Hogan regulation “requires minimal, if any, additional overall emissions reductions” beyond those already achieved. …

The Hogan rule would give power plants more flexibility in deciding how to meet smog limits. Companies with several plants, such as NRG, could average emissions from facilities with state-of-the-art pollution controls along with those from older facilities lacking similar equipment.

Grumbles has said the health protections of the new rule would be “equal to or greater than those in the previously proposed regulations.”