BGE suit hits Md. clean-air regulations Utility says it can't meet deadline on nitrogen oxide

State miscalculation alleged

At least 2 years cited as time needed to retrofit facilities

Utilities

June 23, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

An article in Tuesday's Business section about Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s challenge to the state's nitrogen oxide emission limits erroneously described the consequences of those emissions. The emissions contribute to higher ozone levels.

The Sun regrets the error.

On the books only a month, Maryland's new pollution standard to curtail nitrogen oxide emissions is under legal attack.

In a suit filed against the Maryland Department of Environment, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said the state miscalculated the economic impact of the regulations, and that it will be impossible for it to meet the May 1, 1999, deadline for compliance.

The state adopted the regulations May 22 as part of a 1994 agreement with other Northeastern states to control nitrogen oxide emissions. The new standards, which followed several months of public comment and a hearing in March, are aimed primarily at utilities and seek to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 65 percent. Nitrogen oxide contributes fTC to ozone depletion.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It seems that BGE is not so much worried about the regulation as the time frame on it," said Quentin Banks, spokesman for the Department of Environment. "These regs are based on the Northeastern states agreement. They [BGE] participated in those negotiations and the department adopted its rules after that agreement was reached."

But a BGE spokesman said that, while the company supported the multistate agreement, it would not have been prudent to order the equipment and go forward with the necessary engineering and design work until Maryland's regulations were approved.

He said it will take at least two years to retrofit some facilities with the state-of-the-art pollution control equipment.

"It's physically impossible to install the equipment within the time allowed," said Karl Neddenien, of BGE. "We would like to work with the MDE to resolve our differences outside the courtroom," Neddenien said. "We think it's important to do the work right -- people's clean air is at stake."

MDE officials declined to comment on details of the lawsuit filed Friday in Baltimore Circuit Court, but Banks said Maryland's regulations are consistent with those already approved in Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and those soon going into effect in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New York.

"The bottom line is everyone in Maryland must do their share for cleaner air, and most Marylanders are doing just that," Banks said. "Automobile owners, corner gas stations, our businesses and industries are doing their part to reduce pollution. Utility power plants must do their share as well."

According to BGE, regulators also grossly underestimated the utility's expense at about half the real cost -- between $50 and $100 million. The company is in the process of upgrades totaling $24 million at its Brandon Shores and Crane generating stations in Anne Arundel County, and at the Wagner generating station in Baltimore county.

The largest project will be a $40 million system constructed at Unit 2 of Brandon Shores. BGE has plans for a second power generation system there if the first one proves successful.

In lieu of installing better pollution controls by the deadline, companies are permitted by the regulations to purchase emission "allowances" from other companies that achieve excess reductions by 1999.

However, BGE claims that at this point it is a worthless option since the Environmental Protection Agency has recorded no allowances. The allowance market is so small, according to BG&E, that it could not possibly provide the several thousand allowances BGE would need to disregard the deadline.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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