Much has been said and written about proposed new emissions regulations in Maryland, including two recent letters to the editor in The Sun that vilify NRG Energy and misrepresent its stance on improving Maryland's environment. In the interest of accuracy, I'd like to provide some background and NRG's true position.
First, NRG unequivocally supports effective and fair air emissions regulations. We share with all Marylanders a desire for a healthy environment, and we have a proven track record of putting our money where our mouth is. NRG is the third largest national renewable generation company, and just last fall we set ambitious goals of further reducing our company's carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050 — on top of having already reduced our carbon emissions by 40 percent since 2005. NRG has invested almost $2 billion in Maryland to dramatically reduce emissions. Last year, NRG's Morgantown station was recognized by Power Engineering magazine as having the best-performing Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system for removing the precursor to ozone pollution in the United States.
To its credit, Maryland has been and continues to be an environmental leader. The state has made enormous progress in a relatively short time in reducing emissions from the state's coal units, and my company has proudly been the leading contributor to these improvements: Our coal facilities have reduced Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) by 95 percent since 2004 and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) by 75 percent. The most recent three-year average air quality data show a remarkable ozone air quality improvement statewide, and just a few days ago, the Maryland Department of the Environment announced that metropolitan Baltimore is now meeting the health-based federal standard for ground-level ozone, as determined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and described in MDE's report, Clean Air Progress in Maryland. The report's conclusion states "We have effective air pollution controls in place to address the pollution we generate in Maryland. Vehicles and fuels are cleaner. Utilities have invested billions of dollars in pollution controls."
As the operator of four power plants in Maryland, NRG participated last year in a stakeholder process to further strengthen state regulations for reducing emissions of NOx. During that process, we fully and openly supported tightening NOx emissions targets, and offered suggestions on ways to reach these common goals economically.
At the end of last year, the outgoing governor proposed regulations that would have achieved its goals, but also included language to force us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for additional equipment that is unnecessary to meet those goals. The language was to appease a well-funded and vocal group of people who wish only to close our facilities. It is easy for these people — who are spending millions on endless litigation and sensationalism — to demand that we simply shutter our plants after we've spent billions to improve Maryland's air quality. The rich irony is that we're called the villains while we've actually put our money to work for the good of the state's air quality. The bottom line is that we can in fact meet the state's air quality requirements while we contribute to the state's economy and employ hundreds of hard-working Marylanders.
These same people are displeased because the Hogan administration's new NOx reduction proposals don't explicitly shut down our power plants, and they have unfairly questioned the governor's ethics. The fact is that Maryland's proposed new rules call for the same requirements proposed by the previous governor for the period of 2015-2020. However, rather than mandate drastic, uneconomical and unnecessary action in 2020, Maryland has elected to restart the stakeholder process to develop longer-term rules. Given that the previous administration would have required no additional actions between 2015 and 2020, the Hogan administration's plan to consider what could be needed five years from now is reasonable, especially in light of recent air quality improvements in Maryland.
We applaud Governor Hogan for taking action that makes immediate air quality improvements while establishing a stakeholder process to look at the longer term. Maryland can reach its laudable clean air goals in a fair, non-draconian manner, and NRG has been and remains ready to work with the administration to reach the state's required emissions goals for the benefit of all Marylanders.
Lee Davis is president of East Region — NRG Energy, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.