- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006

BALTIMORE — Emissions from six Maryland power plants are responsible for about 100 premature deaths in Maryland, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maryland Nurses Association.

The association, which is supporting one of two competing clean-air proposals pending before state lawmakers, announced the findings with officials from several other health and environmental groups that are supporting the Healthy Air Act.

Jonathan Levy, the Harvard University School of Public Health assistant professor who conducted the study, said he used previous research to estimate the health impact of the six plants based on 2004 emissions estimates and census data.

In addition to premature deaths — a total of 700 nationwide — emissions from power plants can be linked to 30,000 additional asthma attacks, including 4,000 in Maryland, Mr. Levy found.

Although acknowledging that there are numerous uncertainties in such an analysis, the study said the findings were reasonable estimates.

The report does not recommend any specific solution, but it does “provide some helpful data that could be used to inform decision-making,” Mr. Levy said.

Steve Peregoy, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of Maryland, said “the bottom line is the air quality in Maryland still needs to be improved.”

“We have clearly identified the problems related to poor air quality,” he said. “I think our focus really now needs to be on the solutions.”

Three of the six Maryland power plants are owned by Constellation Energy, parent of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., and three are owned by Mirant Corp., an Atlanta-based wholesale energy marketer emerging from bankruptcy protection.

Constellation owns the Brandon Shores plant southeast of Baltimore, the Herbert A. Wagner plant in Anne Arundel County and the C.P. Crane plant in Baltimore County.

Mirant owns the Dickerson plant in Montgomery County, the Chalk Point plant in Prince George’s County and the Morgantown plant in Charles County.

Five of the plants are solely coal-fired while Chalk Point has both coal and oil units, said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project, who participated in a teleconference to announce the report.

In November, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, proposed a clean-air measure that would not affect carbon dioxide emissions from the six power plants.

Earlier this month, the governor said he would support a weakened version of the Healthy Air Act proposed by lawmakers, versions of which are pending in the state House and Senate.

In response, the bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George’s County Democrat, said he would not accept amendments to weaken the bill from the Ehrlich administration, which he said lobbied with the power industry to kill the bill during the previous session.

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