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Utilities gain more time to clear the air; Deadline on emissions unrealistic, judge agrees


Maryland's power companies will have more time to cut back on harmful emissions at their fossil-fuel-burning generators, after a Baltimore judge's ruling that state regulations for reducing pollution are being implemented too quickly.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co. filed suit against the Maryland Department of the Environment last summer, arguing that the state's May 1, 1999, deadline for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by 65 percent was unrealistic. Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan agreed in a decision Tuesday, and ordered the state to set a new deadline. The judge left the regulations otherwise intact, so the utilities will eventually have to comply or pay stiff penalties.

The companies considered the decision a victory, saying they have begun installing the equipment to reduce pollution.

"It was physically impossible to install this state-of-the-art emissions-reduction equipment in time to meet the deadline," said Karl Neddenien, a BGE spokesman. "It was never a question of whether we would comply, only when." Neddenien said yesterday that installation of a $45 million "selective catalytic reduction" unit at BGE's Brandon Shores power plant in Anne Arundel County won't be completed until the end of 2000. Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the state Department of the Environment, said a new compliance deadline has not been established, but that it will likely fall somewhere between what the power companies and state officials are seeking.

The Brandon Shores plant contains two 650-megawatt generators, and is the largest coal-burning facility BGE operates. It is also the company's largest generator of nitrogen oxide -- a component of smog that contributes to higher ozone levels. About half of the company's power is generated from nuclear energy, which produces no nitrogen oxide.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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