Home | BaltimoreBrew.com
Environmentby Fern Shen2:52 pmApr 21, 20200

Appeal of Clean Air Act ruling in doubt as deadline approaches

Activists fear Mayor Young won’t defend tightened restrictions on incinerator emissions after they were struck down in federal court

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 threw out Baltimore’s Clean Air Act, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to appeal the ruling.

But facing an April 27 deadline over the city’s intent to appeal, the Young administration is not saying whether it will do so, which has environmentalists and community advocates worried.

Asked today if the March 27 ruling was will be appealed, Lester Davis, Young’s spokesman, declined to say.

“He’s going to weigh all sides,” Davis told The Brew. “As an executive, you have to look at things through a holistic lens.”

Acting City Solicitor Dana P. Moore was similarly noncommittal. “We have not yet decided,” she said.

Activists meeting today said they are rallying supporters to lobby Young to defend the legislation, which tightens air emission restrictions on Baltimore’s two incinerators.

“The mayor has given no clear indication of his intentions and in meetings has been saying things like ‘It’s not my decision, I’ll defer to the city solicitor,’” said Greg Sawtell, of United Workers. “It’s not looking good.”

Biggest Air Pollution Source

Under the former law, tougher air standards would apply to Wheelabrator Technologies, operator of the BRESCO incinerator, where much of the city’s trash is burned, and Curtis Bay Energy, a medical waste incinerator.

Wheelabrator has argued that it could not afford to make changes at the 35-year-old incinerator that would allow it to meet the law’s restrictions on pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury.

Located near I-95 on the city’s south side, the BRESCO incinerator is Baltimore’s worst industrial polluter and the 10th-largest incinerator in the country.

Wheelabrator and Curtis Bay Energy challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III ruled in their favor.

Russell said the law undermined the authority of the state and federal governments.

But advocates, who had pushed for years to win passage of the measure, say cities are allowed to enact stricter environmental rules than states.

Tomorrow, on Earth Day, supporters of the law plan a virtual press conference at 10 a.m., followed by a “die in” action near the BRESCO incinerator on Russell Street.

Most Popular