In a unanimous decision, the Baltimore Clean Air Act was approved by City Council on February 11, 2019 and Mayor Pugh signed it into law on March 7th, 2019.
The law would force the city’s two large waste incinerators to meet the most protective air pollution standards or (more likely) close down. This includes the city’s largest air polluter, the 2,250 ton/day Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator, as well as the nation’s largest medical waste incinerator, Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services, which accepts medical waste from about 20 states plus Canada.
In our campaign to pass the Baltimore Clean Air Act, Wheelabrator (Baltimore’s #1 air polluter) sent many desperate mailings to residents to lobby against the law, saying that “the Clean Air Act is not a solution.” Find our responses to Wheelabrator’s lies here.
Leading up to the passage of the Act, Wheelabrator threatened to sue the city, using legal arguments that the city’s Law Department described as “demonstratively false.” In late April 2019, Wheelabrator, Curtis Bay Energy, and two industry trade associations sued the city claiming that the city doesn’t have the authority to pass such a law, even though federal and state law clearly permit it.
While the city’s legal case was strong, the federal court ruled on March 27, 2020 to strike down the city law because it conflicts with state law, as if being stricter (which is authorized) is a conflict. Check out the filings in the lawsuit, including our advice to the court. The city has 30 days to appeal this ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 6, 2020, City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the the city to appeal the ruling. See Councilmember Clarke’s press release on the resolution.
City Council candidates have also weighed in, notably those from District 10, where both incinerators are located. See the statements from candidates Natasha Guynes, a joint letter with candidates Guynes, Bob Cockey, Ray Conaway, Kerry Hamilton & Bill Marker, a separate letter from Phylicia Porter, and this Baltimore Beat Op Ed from Keisha Allen; also Councilman Stokes in his race for council president.
After we organized a die-in at Wheelabrator on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we learned that the city filed an appeal the same day. See our page with all of the filings in the lawsuit.
Baltimore has some of the most dangerous air to breathe in the nation. MIT researchers showed that Baltimore City had the deadliest air in the nation in 2005. According to EPA, in 2014, Baltimore was the 81st most air polluted locality in the nation (out of over 9,000) and is the most polluted city in Maryland. In 2018, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Baltimore as the 33rd worst asthma capital in the nation.
This law we’ve been working on would force the city’s largest air polluter (the Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator) and the nation’s largest medical waste incinerator (Curtis Bay Energy) to abide by the nation’s strictest standards or shut down. It’s been in the media a lot. See our news coverage below.
The Baltimore Clean Air Act (see full text here) is designed to raise pollution standards to bring about cleaner air in Baltimore City, targeting 38% of the city’s industrial air pollution. The Clean Air Act will do the following:
- Raise the emissions standards for the city for burners of solid waste or fuel with a capacity of 25 tons or more.
- Require continuous monitoring of 20 major pollutants to be posted real time on a publicly accessible website.
- Require qualifying facilities to install pollution controls to minimize damages.
Learn more here:
(attachments section includes the bill text and agency reports)
- Baltimore Needs a Clean Air Act
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Economic and Health Benefits of the Baltimore Clean Air Act
- Four Unanimous City Council Resolutions Urging a Transition from Incineration to Zero Waste
- Legal Authority for Local Clean Air Laws in Maryland
- Nitrogen Oxides (NOx): What do the emissions levels mean?
- Life After Wheelabrator: Where will our trash go?? — and Policy Next Steps
- Medical Waste Incineration is Obsolete and Unneeded
- Baltimore Clean Air Act Powerpoint
- Learn more about air pollution from the Wheelabrator trash incinerator and the Curtis Bay Energy medical waste incinerator
General Facts on Incineration vs. Landfills and Zero Waste
- Trash Incineration Fact Sheet
- Zero Waste
- How does Trash Incineration compare to Landfilling? Coal?
Who supports the Baltimore Clean Air Act?
If your group isn’t signed on, you can sign on here!
American Lung Association
Baltimore Beyond Plastic
Baltimore Green Party
Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Blue Water Baltimore
#BmoreLEADfree at Morgan State University’s School of Community Health and Policy
Cleaning, Active, Restoring Efforts (C.A.R.E.) Community Association
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Christ Church Harbor Apartments
Christ Lutheran Church
Climate Reality Project – Baltimore
Energy Justice Network
Food & Water Watch
Green Smart Cities Baltimore
Hamden Community Council
Harbor Way East Condominium Association
Harbor West Collaborative (Westport, Mt. Winans, Lakeland & Saint Paul neighborhoods)
Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Maryland Environmental Health Network
Maryland Public Health Association
Marylanders for Energy Democracy and Affordability
Otterbein Community Association
Patterson Park Neighborhood Association
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Sierra Club – Greater Baltimore Group
Sierra Club Maryland Public Health Committee
St. Ignatus Parish
Teaching Artist Institute
Teamsters, Joint Council 62
The Towers at Harbor Court
Urban Environmental Toxic Tour
The bill also has the support from the Baltimore City Health Department, the Law Department, and the Commission on Sustainability and a statement of no objection from the Environmental Control Board. The Law Department called comments by Wheelabrator, threatening to sue the city, and arguing that the law is illegal, “demonstratively false.”