Some power plants with smog controls aren’t using them effectively — or at all — and are fouling the air hundreds of miles away as a result.
That’s the conclusion reached by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week to make 19 coal-fired plants run their control equipment throughout the summer, when ground-level ozone — often known as smog — is most likely to form.
Ten of those 19 plants were identified by the Center for Public Integrity in September as “super polluters” because they were among the top 100 U.S. industrial sites for toxic substances pumped into the air, greenhouse gases released, or both, in 2014.
Maryland’s petition focused on releases of nitrogen oxides, a key ozone ingredient. Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s secretary of the environment, said he simply wants the 19 plants to do what his state’s coal plants must: “Run the controls — run the controls every day of the ozone season, and downwind states will benefit significantly from that.”
Ozone is bad for the lungs, can trigger asthma attacks and, researchers suspect, can harm the heart as well. And the pollutants that turn into it when baked in the sun can travel far afield.
Maryland contends that roughly 70 percent of its ozone problem can be linked to emissions from upwind states. Its petition names power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including three in the southwest Indiana region that the Center featured because of its concentration of big air polluters.