Council to call on city to appeal incinerator ruling
A federal judge had ruled that Baltimore’s Clean Air Act undermined the authority of the state and federal governments
Above: The tall smokestack of the Wheelabrator plant emits three times more pollutants than any other facility in Baltimore. (Brew file photo)
After a federal judge last week threw out Baltimore’s new law tightening restrictions on air emissions from incinerators, a City Councilman will introduce a resolution on Monday calling on the law department to appeal the ruling.
U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III ruled 0n March 27 that the Baltimore Clean Air Act undermined the authority of the state and federal governments. But advocates say cities are allowed to enact stricter environmental rules than states.
“The court got it wrong,” said Mike Ewall, who runs the Energy Justice Network. “They’re essentially gutting state law by interpreting anything stricter as being illegal.”
The original law, sponsored by Councilman Ed Reisinger, sets tougher emissions standards on two incinerators.
Wheelabrator Baltimore, the city’s worst polluter and the 10th-largest incinerator in the country, said compliance with the law would be too costly for it to stay in business.
“This is a slap in the face to the city residents suffering from asthma and other health problems,” Reisinger said when the court ruling came out.
The Council resolution, also sponsored by Reisinger, has nine co-sponsors as of Friday afternoon, Ewall said.
Council members who have not yet endorsed the resolution are Danielle McCray, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, Leon Pinkett, Eric Costello and Robert Stokes.
If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upholds the Baltimore Clean Air Act, the law would pave the way for cities throughout the circuit’s nine states to enact stricter environmental laws than the states require.
In a Zoom presentation Friday on the history of the incinerator battle, Ewall commended the work of the city’s lawyers. “The judge’s decision was bad, but that wasn’t because of the legal representation of the city,” he said.