Clean Energy Jobs Act Veto Override Needed to Respond to Maryland’s Spike in Dirty Air Quality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  July 27th, 2016

Contact:  Tiffany Hartung, Maryland Climate Coalition (443) 759-3402, hartungt@nwf.org

Clean Energy Jobs Act Veto Override Needed to Respond to Maryland’s Spike in Dirty Air Quality
Marylanders Struggle to Breathe Through High Number of Unhealthy Air Quality Days in July

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued eight air quality alerts this July, which means the air has been unhealthy to breathe for all sensitive populations including children, older adults, and those with respiratory problems during those days. This year, a total of eighteen alerts have been issued for unhealthy air quality days in Maryland putting those sensitive populations at risk.

“Orange” and “red” air quality alert days are a result of a dangerous combination of ozone pollution, known as smog, and particle pollution, or soot, and warm temperatures. Ozone pollution from coal-burning power plants and automobiles combines during warm weather to exacerbate respiratory problems for certain groups, making it harder to breathe.

During the 2016 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 921/HB 1106), sponsored by Senator Catherine Pugh and Delegate Bill Frick, that would have committed Maryland to getting twenty-five percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current goal of twenty percent by 2022.  Governor Hogan later vetoed the widely supported bill that would have created incentives for roughly 1,300 megawatts of new clean energy.

“One thing I have worked hard to promote is the benefit of outdoor play for the wellbeing of children,” said Dr. Maria Brown, Maryland pediatrician.  “When the air quality is poor, it forces kids inside so they miss out on this necessary activity. Parents should not have to add clean air to their list of concerns. As a society, we need to ensure we are generating energy in a way that does not negatively impact air quality. Legislation that increases clean energy sources moves us in the right direction.”

Smog causes the lungs and airways to become inflamed and swollen. Even at low levels smog can cause asthma attacks and impair lung function. Especially at risk from smog pollution are children, seniors, and people with chronic respiratory and heart disease.  More frequent bad air quality days are a result of more frequent extreme heat events induced by climate change.

“For many of us it’s a challenge to now even participate during summer events, I have health concerns that I manage everyday,” said Eneshal Miller of Burtonsville, MD.  “No one is going to tell me that it’s normal to walk outside and within moments be gasping for breath, have your breathing heightened, and be accompanied by burning of the eyes. This heat and humidity and poor air quality is a dangerous combination.”

“Maryland still has seven large, old coal-burning power plants polluting our air and acting as a major in-state sources of dangerous smog-forming pollution,” said Allison Rich, Children’s Environmental Health Specialist from Maryland Environmental Health Network.  “Increasing Maryland’s use of renewable energy to twenty-five percent will significantly improve the state’s air quality and could prevent 25 to 50 premature deaths per year and increase regional economic growth by $200 million to $450 million annually due to better health outcomes. The Maryland General Assembly should override Governor Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act and make it easier for all Marylanders to breathe.”

Seventy-five percent of Marylanders live in areas that received a D or F air quality grade from the American Lung Association, and the state notoriously has some of the worst ground-level ozone pollution in the eastern U.S.  In Maryland 130,567 children and 394,047 adults suffer from asthma.  For those individuals and others with respiratory condition, bad air alert days represent an especially dangerous threat to their health.

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For more information on Maryland’s air quality, visit AirNow: www.airnow.gov or Clean Air Partners: www.cleanairpartners.net

The Maryland Climate Coalition brings together environmental, faith, health, labor, and civic organizations to advance clean energy and climate policies in Maryland.  For more information about the Maryland Climate Coalition, visit www.marylandclimatecoalition.org and follow us on Twitter at: @MDClimateCo