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Set tough limits on city incinerator

I was excited to read that the Maryland’s environmental regulators plan to require Wheelabrator Technologies to significantly reduce from its Baltimore incinerator emissions of nitrogen oxides, a pollutant that contributes to smog and can worsen asthma (“Maryland calls on Baltimore trash incinerator to cut emissions of a harmful pollutant by one-fifth,” Aug. 20). New limits requiring the facility to reduce its nitrogen oxides by 200 tons per year are a step forward, but the Maryland Department of the Environment can and must do more.

As the article mentions, the draft rule requires Wheelabrator to submit a detailed report by the end of 2019 analyzing the potential to install new pollution controls. MDE has the authority to use the results of this study to require much steeper reductions in NOx emissions from this polluting facility. Agency officials have expressed that MDE will use this authority to set additional NOx pollution limits, but nothing in the draft rule compels MDE to take this extremely important step.

As a resident of Baltimore and someone who breathes in the nitrogen oxides from this incinerator, it is essential to me that MDE follow through with the most important piece of this rule. Maryland must ensure that Wheelabrator submits a thorough and meaningful report by January 1, 2020 on additional steps that can be taken to reduce NOx from the facility. MDE must then set much stronger pollution limits.

Wheelabrator has every incentive to try to avoid the expense of more pollution controls and, as detailed by The Baltimore Sun, initially sought a higher pollution limit than the one MDE is requiring under the draft regulation published last week. The company now acknowledges that it can meet this lower limit using existing controls, but advocates had to push for this. State officials need to take a close look at the information submitted in Wheelabrator’s report and be willing to use the data to set strong and health-protective limits for Baltimoreans.

Andrew Hinz, Baltimore

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