Maryland Reduces Smokestack Emissions, Joins Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

April 07, 2006

Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich signed legislation today that restricts emissions of pollutants from power plants and sets a cap on carbon dioxide (CO2). The law passed the Maryland Legislature on the final day of the 2006 session and sets some of the toughest limits in the country for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) from utility and industrial facilities. These facilities can either reduce emissions or buy credits to meet the following caps:

  • NOx limited to 20,216 tons a year in 2009
  • SO2 limited to 48,618 tons a year in 2010
  • Mercury emissions reduced by 80% in 2010.

In addition, Maryland will join in 2007 the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a regional consortium of Northeast states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. The initiative establishes a cap-and-trade mechanism for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that is very similar to the one established for the regulated pollutants listed above. Maryland thus joins seven other states in the Northeast — including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont — that agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by10% in 2019.

Maryland's participation in the initiative is significant because the state is more reliant on coal-fired power generation than are the other states in the Northeast. You can find details about the fuel sources of Maryland power generators on the EERE State Activities & Partnerships Web page titled "Maryland Energy Statistics."

Ehrlich explained to the Associated Press at the bill-signing ceremony that he signed it because he believes that technologies will be developed during the next 15 years to be able to reduce carbon emissions. "The issue is carbon," he said. Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said the new law closely follows regulations Ehrlich administration released last fall for power plant emissions.

During negotiations about the bill in the Maryland Legislature, Governor Ehrlich and Maryland utility companies expressed concerns about the effects of this legislation on prices. As a result, it was amended to require a comprehensive study of reliability and cost issues in 2008. Depending on the outcome of this study, the state can withdraw from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2009.