Hogan administration says Trump repeal of Obama emissions rules could threaten Maryland's environmental goals

Maryland adopted a goal last year of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. But as officials develop a strategy to accomplish that goal, they say a decision this past week by President Donald Trump’s administration could make it more difficult.

A state work group is researching how and where emissions can be reduced, conferring with power plants, factories, transportation experts and environmentalists before it releases a draft plan at the end of 2018. A final plan isn’t expected until the end of 2019, said Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

But if the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with plans announced Monday to repeal the Clean Power Plan — a set of rules crafted by the Obama administration to reduce power plant emissions — the Maryland group’s job could get more difficult, Grumbles said.

State environmental officials are concerned that rolling back the Clean Power Plan will mean “some important pollution prevention opportunities outside of our state could be lost,” Grumbles wrote in an email.

The state work group has nearly three dozen members, from the private sector, state agencies and environmental groups. It sits within the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.

The panel has been working to inventory the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, consider what programs and policies could reduce them and evaluate the impact those changes could have on industries, communities and jobs.

But some of the state's carbon footprint comes from energy produced outside the state. Maryland imports more than 80 percent of its electricity and fuel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. State environmental officials estimate the share when considering only electricity is about 30 percent.

Maryland’s power plants are already bound by emissions caps set under state laws and through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which auctions off emissions allowances for plants in the Northeast.

Other states would have been required to craft similar emissions-reduction plans under the Obama rules. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday declared an end to a “war on coal” that he said has killed jobs in states such as Kentucky, where he was speaking.

Kentucky is one of five states with coal power plants that Maryland officials argue are not doing enough to scrub emissions of smog-producing pollutants on hot summer days.

The state is already taking the EPA to court over accusations the federal government is failing in its duties to regulate interstate air pollution. The state has demanded that the EPA crack down on 19 plants in those states.

“We are pushing for interstate leadership to help level the playing field and reduce the leakage of dirty energy into Maryland,” Grumbles said.

Without the Obama rules and pressure from that lawsuit, he said, Maryland might have to take other states’ inaction into account when drafting its greenhouse gas plan “to ensure we keep making progress toward our environmental goals.”

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