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Maryland petitions interstate panel to help reduce pollution blowing in from Pennsylvania coal plants

Maryland is asking a regional air quality commission to push for greater pollution controls at Pennsylvania coal power plants, whose emissions often blow across the Mason-Dixon Line on hot summer days.

The petition comes as the state continues to pursue a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the same issue. The EPA last year declined to crack down on the Pennsylvania plants.

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With no resolution to that complaint expected to be imminent, Maryland Department of the Environment officials said they are seeking other avenues to reduce interstate smog.

In a May 30 letter to the executive director of the Ozone Transport Commission, state environment Secretary Ben Grumbles asked for the 13-state panel to recommend that EPA require operators of 10 Pennsylvania coal plants to use pollution controls more frequently.

The plants exceed limits for safe amounts of smog-inducing nitrogen oxide emissions by dozens of tons on hot summer days, when air quality is typically worst.

On those days, sunlight and heat trigger chemical reactions in the air that produce hazardous ozone pollution. Ozone, a form of oxygen found naturally at higher levels of the atmosphere, can cause or exacerbate breathing problems.

The ozone commission is responsible for advising the EPA on issues related to interstate air pollution, helping to develop regional solutions to reduce ozone pollution.

Maryland environment officials said they’re acting with urgency to reduce interstate smog by next summer, the next time air quality measurements will be used to determine whether the state is in compliance with federal standards for ozone pollution.

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