Environmental and health groups have launched a television ad blitz Thursday calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to release an air pollution regulation that he blocked when he took office.
"Marylanders didn't vote for dirty air last November," the 30-second commercial begins, "but they might get it from Governor Larry Hogan."
"On his first day in office, Governor Hogan blocked critical clean air protections that would have finally helped clean up our air," said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club. "Unfortunately, not all Marylanders are aware of this, and that's why we are taking to the airwaves to ensure that the public knows exactly what's going on."
The O'Malley administration proposed a rule in its final weeks that would have required a 48 percent reduction by 2020 in emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides at four coal-burning plants in the Baltimore and Washington areas.
Hogan blocked publication of it within hours of being sworn in, along with four other O'Malley regulations about to be finalized, saying he wanted to take a closer look at them. The other held-up rules have since been released or reproposed, including the controversial plan to curtail Eastern Shore farmers' use of chicken manure as fertilizer.
Activists say they are frustrated by the Hogan administration's delay in acting on the air pollution regulation. They say they reached a deal last year with Raven Power, owner of the H.A. Wagner and C.P. Crane plants in the Baltimore area, giving the company two extra years to reduce emissions.
But NRG, which owns two Washington-area plants, opposed the regulation, warning the costs of installing required pollution controls could force the company to shut down its plants and lay off hundreds of workers. An NRG spokesman contends air quality can be improved with "other alternative, innovative and cost-effective control technologies or approaches."
Although air quality has improved considerably in Maryland in the past three decades, summertime smog or ozone levels continue to pose health risks at times across much of the state. The state has already missed a deadline set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce power plant pollution, activists point out.
Jay Apperson, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said regulators "continue to work toward accomplishing our goal of moving forward as quickly as possible." He did not provide a timetable, or say what was delaying action.
"We're also committed to longer-term controls and collaborations with neighboring and upwind states," Apperson added, "to protect air quality in Maryland well into the future." He did not elaborate.