EPA Pushes Deadline for Decision on Maryland Emissions Request

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By Patrick Ambrosio

The EPA is using flexibility built into the Clean Air Act to delay a looming deadline for the agency to decide whether to grant a request by Maryland to further control power plant emissions.

While the EPA issued a 2016 update to its Cross-State Air Pollution rule to control utility sector emissions, Maryland said in a November petition that more must be done to help the state come into compliance with the 2008 ozone standards of 75 parts per billion.

Maryland’s petition, filed under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, asked the EPA to require 36 power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to either operate more efficiently or utilize already-installed pollution controls during the summer months, when ground-level ozone concentrations are elevated.

The Clean Air Act gives the EPA 60 days to respond to such petitions, meaning the agency faced a mid-January deadline to respond to Maryland’s request. However, the EPA, in a final rule scheduled for publication Jan. 3, is extending that deadline until July 15.

The EPA said it needed more time to complete a technical review of Maryland’s request and follow through with a full notice-and-comment rulemaking process. The agency used its authority under Section 307(d)(10), which allows for the EPA to extend a deadline if more time is needed to fulfill procedural rulemaking requirements, to push back its deadline for the Maryland petition.

Ben Grumbles, Maryland's Secretary of the Environment, said in a Dec. 30 statement e-mailed to Bloomberg BNA that the state looks forward to working with the incoming Trump administration, affected states and the Ozone Transport Commission on the issue. "This is a priority concern for many downwind states," Grumbles said. "Maryland will continue to rely on science and collaboration to improve air quality for our citizens and neighbors."

The EPA received several Section 126 petitions from states in mid-Atlantic and northeast in 2016, including three petitions from Delaware. The agency Dec. 29 opted to extend its deadline for responding to a Delaware petition seeking federal action against Pennsylvania’s Homer City Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant operated by NRG Energy Services.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Ambrosio in Washington, D.C. at PAmbrosio@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The EPA's final rule extending the deadline is available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-31258.pdf.

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