Hogan Stops Pollution Regulation Critical to Public Health

One of Governor Hogan’s very first decisions has been to rescind a pending air-quality regulation that would have curtailed emissions from existing coal fired power plants.  This regulation had been extensively vetted by industry, the public and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Maryland Air Quality Control Advisory Council (AQCAC) concurred unanimously with the proposed regulation in October 2014. Note that the AQCAC:

consists of 15 members appointed by the Secretary of the Department. Members include representatives from industry, labor, professional associations, local and regional government organizations, academia, farming, the medical community and the general public.

Indeed, AQCAC is currently chaired by a BGE employee–John Quinn.

According the the Baltimore Sun,

Hogan has ordered a comprehensive review of all pending regulations, opening them up for further “public input, public hearing and full due process” before they can be finalized.

But that due process has already occurred. These sorts of regulations go through truly extensive vetting before they get published in the Maryland Register. The unanimous approval by all AQCAC members present on October 6, 2014 is testament to the success of the vetting process.

These environmental regulations will have an important impact on public health in Maryland. MIT published a study in 2013 showing that air pollution is the source of 200,000 excess deaths annually in the US.  On the east coast, a substantial share of the air pollution is due to electricity generation by coal  fired power plants.  Among the types of fossil fuels used to produce electricity, coal is far and away the greatest source of air pollution.  And guess which city has the highest mortality rate in the country due to air pollution:

The researchers also mapped local emissions in 5,695 U.S. cities, finding the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Among the many regulations that Gov. Hogan vetoed or delayed, this should not have been one of them. It had extensive review with unanimous concurrence by the full spectrum of stakeholders. The regulation was key part of the effort to address directly the root cause of the multi-year failure of the greater Baltimore metro area to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and reduce the associated cost of pollution to public health.

Regulations are often onerous with some having less merit than others. Environmental regulations, however, are critical because they force businesses to pay a cost–either in terms of public health or cleanup–that they otherwise would dump on the public. Open for business is great but not at the cost of the well-being of Maryland’s citizens.