Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

January 8, 2002 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., and the attorneys general of eight other northeastern states today warned the Bush administration not to undermine an ongoing state-federal effort to reduce power plant pollution that causes smog, acid rain and respiratory disease.

At a Washington, D.C. news conference, the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont joined Curran in calling on the Bush administration to work with northeastern states in seeking reductions in power plant air pollution.

It has been widely reported that the Bush administration will shortly announce plans to significantly weaken the Clean Air Act of 1970, enforcement of which is widely credited with improving air quality around the nation. The attorneys general argued that such a rollback in air quality protections will have a devastating impact on public health and the environment, particularly in the Northeast.

"In addition to the health risks posed by these proposed changes, there is a significant impact on our environment," Attorney General Curran said. "Years of research have concluded that nutrient loading to the Chesapeake Bay is the primary cause of the decline of living resources in this unique water body. I fear that the proposed changes will put the Bay at even greater risk and this should not be allowed to happen."

Prevailing winds blow smokestack pollution from large coal-burning power plants in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states hundreds of miles before it falls over the Northeast as acid rain or acid snow, or in the form of fine particles that contribute to premature death. Power plant pollution also creates smog and triggers respiratory diseases such as asthma.

The Clean Air Act requires that power plants install modern air pollution controls when the plants are modified or upgraded. Some utilities have violated the law by undertaking major improvements and upgrades to their power plants without also installing the required pollution controls.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said: "The Bush administration is preparing the most dangerous attack on air quality since the Clean Air Act was adopted. The environmental and public health impacts of the changes administration officials are preparing will be devastating if this misguided action occurs. The only beneficiaries of this indefensible policy would be the operators of dirty power plants, coal companies and the oil industry."

The attorneys general from many of the northeastern states are currently involved in federal lawsuits and settlements that target dozens of coal-burning power plants. In some of these lawsuits and settlements, the states were joined by the federal Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, plus a number of environmental protection organizations. Any weakening of the Clean Air Act by the Bush administration would threaten to compromise the air quality improvements sought in the states’ current power plant cases.

Acid rain caused by power plant pollution has numerous prolonged and insidious impacts throughout the Northeast, including:

  • killing 23 percent of the lakes and ponds in the six-million acre Adirondack Mountain region of New York,
  • damaging New Hampshire’s lakes, forests and scenic vistas and injuring the state’s tourism industry and its forest products industry,
  • killing high-elevation red spruce forests in the Green Mountains of Vermont and harming the state’s maple sugar industry.
  • contributing significantly to the eutrophication of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

The Bush administration’s review of the current clean air cases, which is taking place after the states and the federal government filed lawsuits, is virtually unprecedented, and continues to delay this vital enforcement initiative.