Monday, May 29, 2006

Rates Up. Pollution Up. Profit!

A pretty detailed piece in the Sun yesterday, State gives power plants a pass on pollution, presents the results of a review of MDE enforcement records (or non-enforcement records, apparently). This piece seems to be based on some good, old-fashioned shoe leather reporting:
A review of thousands of pages of emission reports for the state's seven oldest coal-fired power plants revealed numerous pollution violations over the past six years that have drawn no penalties. The newspaper examined these plants because they're the state's largest individual sources of air pollution and the only facilities subject to a new state emission-control law passed this spring.
The results: pollution from these plants up, fines down. In response to why the MDE had chosen to ignore opacity issues at the Chalk Point plant, we have this:
The MDE said it is enforcing the law, but only when appropriate.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your democracy at work! Sometimes, it is just not appropriate to stop utilities from violating pollution control laws. Whatever happened to zero tolerance? For poor people only, it seems.

MDE did find it appropriate to give the Sun some industry friendly codewords to print:
Tad Aburn, a 22-year veteran of the MDE's air division who has worked in both administrations and was recently named director, said in a written statement that his agency is doing more than ever to clean up the air but "strives to achieve a fair and balanced enforcement approach."
Fair and balanced. Fair and balanced. Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, these Jokers. This part of MDE's response was also a bit humorous:
Julie Oberg, spokeswoman for the agency, said officials declined to be interviewed by The Sun in part because officials were "not 100 percent happy" with the newspaper's coverage. The newspaper reported in December that the department had worked closely with Constellation Energy last year to kill a pollution-control bill that would have cost the power company hundreds of millions of dollars.
MDE contends that overall pollution is down in Maryland, but only a drop in ozone was specifically mentioned. I don't have the environmental expertise to evaluate whether that is true, and whether it could be attributed to action by MDE even if true. I did find this chart, showing that pollution levels had been dropping before the Ehrlich Administration took over. Also, we're talking about pollution from Maryland's power plants, which are very significant polluters:
Nationwide, 700 premature deaths, 30,000 asthma attacks and 400 pediatric emergency room visits each year are linked to current pollution from six Maryland power plants, according to a new study released [in February 2006] by the Maryland Nurses Association (MNA). Conducted by Dr. Jonathan Levy, assistant professor of environmental health and risk assessment, Harvard School of Public Health, the study looks at the impact of particulate matter and gases that contribute to fine particle pollution from the Chalk Point, Dickerson, Morgantown, C.P. Crane, Brandon Shores, and H.A. Wagner power plants.
Link here, and similar results from 2004:
Pollution from power plants causes 631 hospital admissions, 1,014 non-fatal heart attacks, and 697 premature deaths each year in Maryland, according to a new Clear the Air report released today by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG) and Clean Water Action. The study also noted that Baltimore ranks ninth nationally among major cities for annual adverse health impacts from power plant pollution.
Hopefully, pollution from these plants will go down in the future as a result of new equipment that must be installed, but that isn't any result of MDE action - that would be a benefit of the emissions bill that was enacted last Session despite Ehrlich's opposition. If MDE decides to enforce the bill, of course. It might not be appropriate, you know.


Blogger OnBackground said...

the whole "balance" thing is a way to move away from strict enforcement. the bush admin. generally says stuff about how they want to move away from an adversarial approach to partnerships and voluntary programs. this is more of the same.

5/30/2006 10:31:00 AM  

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