Maryland is not meeting federal ambient air standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution in portions of Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In making its final determination, EPA explicitly rejected the Maryland Department of the Environment's (MDE) modeling of SO2 emissions and its challenge to EPA's preliminary determination. To bring Maryland into compliance with federal air quality laws, MDE must now develop a plan to reduce SO2 emissions from the Herbert A. Wagner coal plant south of Baltimore, the main source of SO2 pollution in the area.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set national ambient air quality standards for SO2 and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment (the other pollutants are ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead). Short-term exposures to SO2 can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult, particularly in children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma. High concentrations of SO2 also can lead to the formation of other sulfur oxides (SOx). SOx can react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form particulate matter (PM) pollution, which may penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and cause additional health problems.
Chesapeake PSR has been actively pushing for more stringent controls of SO2 pollutions on coal-fired power plants since 2013. In June, Gwen DuBois, MD, MPH, president of Chesapeake PSR, discussed the effects of air pollution from the Wagner plant in the Baltimore Sun.
“We are definitely seeing the Hogan Administration favor dirty fossil fuels over renewable energy,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake PSR. “The Hogan administration's attempt to block the EPA’s efforts to clean up the Wagner plant is another signal that health and environmental groups will have to redouble our efforts to bring clean energy to the state.”
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