Ammonia dispute to go before mediators


In an attempt to settle a dispute that has simmered all summer, mediators are scheduled to bring together tomorrow Constellation Power Source Generation officials and Solley-area residents to talk about the company's plan to truck a potentially hazardous chemical through their neighborhood every day.

Mediators from the Maryland Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission will facilitate the discussion concerning the Brandon Shores power plant's proposal to use anhydrous ammonia in an emissions-control system; the chemical can cause severe lung damage and death in extreme exposure. The two sides met separately with the mediators last week.

Lester A. Ettlinger, who has organized and led much of the community protest against the use of the chemical, said the resolution commission contacted him a few weeks ago and offered its services. He said residents were reluctant to pursue that route because they wanted to meet alone with the company representatives.

However, Ettlinger said he hopes a neutral third party will add weight to the community's side and help persuade Constellation Power Source Generation, which took over operation of the plant in a restructuring of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., to give up the plan. The residents are concerned that the company's plan to truck about 7,000 gallons of a pressurized form of the gas a day into its complex would endanger their community.

"Sometimes it's remarkable how all it takes is a third party saying the same thing without all the emotion attached to it to make people listen," he said. "I hope that BGE understands the error of their ways and reduces the emissions in a safe way."

Constellation spokeswoman Rose Maria Kendig said the company is happy to be discussing the issue with the residents through mediators.

"We're real pleased to be working with the community at this point and being able to see a possible resolution on the horizon," she said. "Now we can all sit down and discuss it in a open forum with an objective third party."

The residents selected potential mediators and forwarded their choices to the company, and the two sides decided together on the mediators, Ettlinger said.

The mediators have no authority to impose action on either of the parties in helping them reach an agreement, said Rachel A. Wohl, executive director of the resolution commission.

"The mediators use their skills to get people to understand what the issues are and help them work together to come up with resolutions that work for everybody," she said. "If people don't agree at the end of it ... then the mediation is over, and there's no agreement. The mediators can't force anything."

The dispute about the company's plan to use anhydrous ammonia to reduce its nitrogen oxide emissions has been brewing since June. Using the chemical was one of two alternatives it had to meet the Maryland Department of the Environment's mandate to reduce emissions by May.

Both sides said they were unsure how long the process would take. They agree they want a conclusion as soon as possible.

"They have gotten clarification that we want this to happen early," Ettlinger said.

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