Study Links 700 Deaths Yearly to Md. Plants

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pollution from Maryland's six largest coal-burning power plants contribute to 700 deaths each year, including 100 deaths in Maryland, according to a Harvard University study released yesterday.

The study was sponsored by the Maryland Nurses Association, which supports a bill in the legislature that would require such plants to sharply reduce pollution over the next decade.

Jonathan Levy of the Harvard School of Public Health, the report's author, linked several studies with a model imitating the flow of pollution to show how the power plants contribute to deaths and illnesses.

Most of the deaths occurred in Maryland and the more populous states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Maryland power plant emissions, he found, are implicated in more than 30,000 asthma attacks in this wider area each year, about 4,000 of them in Maryland. Additionally, the report says the plants contributed to 800,000 days of restricted activity, with about 100,000 of those in Maryland. The report did not place a dollar value on the losses but estimated them to be in the "hundreds of millions of dollars in Maryland, and billions of dollars" across the mid-Atlantic states.

The six plants in the study are Chalk Point and Morgantown in Southern Maryland, and Dickerson in Montgomery County, all owned by Mirant Corp.; Brandon Shores and H.A. Wagner in Anne Arundel, and C.P. Crane in Baltimore County, all owned by Constellation Energy.

Mirant spokesman Steve Arabia said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for emissions, introduced last year, "already addressed what this report discusses. We support that, and we're engaged in an aggressive program right now to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to comply."

But many states say the guidelines don't go far enough and have crafted their own. In Maryland, many environmentalists are pushing for the Healthy Air Act before the General Assembly instead of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s clean air regulations that would reduce some but not all of the pollutants from the power plants. The rule that Ehrlich (R) has proposed would be a regulation, potentially easier to weaken than state law.

Under either proposal, power companies would no longer be permitted to purchase credits enabling them to bypass federal and state emissions standards. That practice, still allowed under the new EPA guidelines, often delays the introduction of cleaner technology.

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