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Settlement Reached to Improve Maryland Air Quality

A settlement was reached on Monday with American Electric Power to improve air quality in Maryland.

Maryland joined seven other states and the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, Feb. 25, in reaching an $8.5-million settlement with Ohio-based American Electric Power to reduce air pollution emissions from its coal-fired electric power plants that carries to downwind states.

"With this agreement, we’ve accelerated a timetable that will help make Maryland’s air cleaner for decades to come," Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said.

"Marylanders have been subjected to harmful emissions from out-of-state power plants for far too long. The 2007 agreement [with American Electric Power] was historic in its size and scope and we just made it even better for the citizens of Maryland and the entire Mid-Atlantic region.”

The power company and its subsidiaries will have to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at all plants east of the Mississippi River. By 2029, the company must reduce total sulfur dioxide emissions by about 90 percent (from baseline emissions determined before the 2007 agreement), according to the settlement. And, the power company will, over time, fund environmental mitigation programs in Maryland (costing up to $714,000) designated by the attorney general. 

All together, the eight states in the settlement—Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont—will receive $6 million for mitigation programs.

"Before 2007, AEP’s baseline [sulfur dioxide] emissions totaled about 828,000 tons annually from its plants east of the Mississippi River. The modified consent decree [reached on Monday] prohibits AEP from emitting more than 145,000 tons of [sulfur dioxide] annually by 2016—an amount significantly lower than the reduction to 450,000 tons annually by 2010 required by the original settlement. The consent decree also requires AEP to further reduce annual [sulfur dioxide] emissions to only 94,000 tons per year by 2029," according to a statement from the attorney general's office.

"Sulfur dioxide contributes to the formation of sulfates and fine particulates that can cause or exacerbate respiratory illnesses in the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and small children. It is also the principal contributor to acid rain, which can damage forests, destroy plant and animal life in lakes and other waterways, deteriorate buildings and monuments, and affect the condition of farmland," the statement added.

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