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Maryland energy regulators have revoked a key permit for a controversial waste-to-energy power plant in South Baltimore, shelving the project indefinitely.

The Public Service Commission on Monday ruled that Energy Answers International violated the terms of its permit by halting construction activity at the plant site in Fairfield for more than 18 months. The regulators rejected arguments from the Albany, N.Y.-based company that it should nonetheless retain its license for the $1 billion project.

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Environmentalists and residents in Cherry Hill and Brooklyn had fought the project, saying it would further foul air that is already so polluted it's unhealthy. They cheered the regulators' decision.

"We are pleased that the Public Service Commission has confirmed the expiration of the Clean Air Act permit as required," said Leah Kelly, an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C. The organization had notified state and federal regulators in February that it planned to file a citizen lawsuit under federal air pollution law if the terms of the permit, known as a certificate of public necessity and convenience, were not enforced.

The decision "recognizes the growing public concern regarding this facility," Kelly said.

Representatives for Energy Answers could not be immediately reached.

The company proposed the project in 2009, and the Public Service Commission approved the certificate in 2010. Such a permit is required to construct or modify a power plant or high-voltage transmission lines.

It would have burned a fuel derived from trash to create electricity that is considered renewable under a state law that Energy Answers lobbied in favor of in 2011.

City officials initially supported the plant, and a group of 22 local governments, school systems and nonprofit institutions organized by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council had committed to buying power from the facility in 2011.

But when residents of the neighborhoods around the plant began protesting it, support waned. The group of prospective energy buyers backed out of their agreement last year.

To restart the project, Energy Answers would have to obtain a new permit, a process that took 15 months the first time around.

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