Friday, November 18, 2005

Governor Bobby's Pre-Emptive Strike

It's funny the way an upcoming election can change a man's entire outlook. Last session, Governor Ehrlich was mewling and whining about environmentalists' efforts to clean up Maryland's air by getting coal-fired power plants to stop polluting. Now, armed with an even more powerful coalition, a stronger bill, and an election looming, the advocates of the Healthy Air Act have apparently frightened the Guv into green-washing his image. According to Thursday's Capital, Ehrlich is proposing a watered-down version of the Healthy Air Act on his own.

The Healthy Air Act, which is supported by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Nurses Association, and several others, proposes to regulate the output of four pollutants: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide, at seven Maryland coal-fired power plants. Ehrlich's "Maryland Clean Power Rule" excludes carbon dioxide and exempts the R. Paul Smith plant in Williamsport owned by Allegheny Energy. Below is a more detailed comparison:

Healthy Air Act:
Nitrogen oxide: 80 percent reduction by 2015.
Sulfur dioxide: 90 percent reduction by 2011.
Mercury: 90 percent reduction by 2011.
Carbon Dioxide: 10 percent reduction by 2011.

Clean Power Rule:
Nitrogen oxide: 45,000 tons per year, or 69 percent reduction.
Sulfur dioxide: 205,000 tons per year, or 85 percent reduction.
Mercury: 1,400 pounds per year, or 70 percent reduction.

We can rest fairly certain that Ehrlich's "Rule" was cobbled together by power industry consultants and shills in the administration, but at first glance, it looks like the supporters of clean air may have scared some sense into them. And hey, as an added bonus, they even got the Governor to make some baby steps towards regulating big business in the state. I'll keep you posted on how this one plays out over the next couple of months.

1998 Data on mercury output from Maryland coal plants is available here [pdf].



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