On Thursday more than 40 Marylanders rallied in Baltimore's Carroll Park before delivering 2,000 comments to the Maryland Department of the Environment supporting the agency's proposed clean air standards.
Standing in front of a 20-foot inflatable asthma inhaler, state, city, and local officials joined the Maryland Sierra Club activists and other residents in congratulating the MDE while also encouraging them to be even tougher on coal plant pollution.
"I am here today to tell the Maryland Department of the Environment that people like me need you to move forward with strong, limits on pollution from Maryland's coal-fired power plants," said Doris Toles a Baltimore City resident suffering from asthma and COPD who spoke at the rally. "There are many who have died from asthma. I have lost family and friends."
Some rally-goers brought babies in strollers, others carried signs, and many wore air masks to show just how important clean air is in the Old Line State. More than five million Marylanders live in areas that fail to meet air quality safeguards, including Baltimore, which suffers from some of the worst air and highest asthma rates in the nation.
Maryland's coal-fired power plants are responsible for more than 40 percent of all dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions in the state. These plants are also a significant contributor to smog pollution in the state. Smog causes a host of adverse health impacts including inducing asthma attacks in asthmatics and aggravating chronic lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis. IIts impacts are most harmful to sensitive populations including children and the elderly.
"MDE has a chance to clean up our air while saving lives and money," said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Chapter of Sierra Club. "These new clean air protections will ensure that folks across the state can breathe a little easier. We're proud to support the administration in its efforts to make it happen."
Last October, MDE initiated a "stakeholder process" to address air pollution from coal fired power plants. The Sierra Club has worked closely with MDE through their stakeholder process. MDE's safeguards would reduce dangerous emissions of sulfur dioxide and smog-causing nitrogen oxides from sources including two outdated Baltimore-area coal plants.
For residents like Doris Toles and thousands of others, clean air standards and cleaning up coal plant pollution are a matter of life and death.
"Please help by moving forward with strong protections that will ensure that Maryland’s coal-fired power plants are as clean as possible," said Toles. "Cleaning up pollution from coal plants helps people like me stay alive."
-- Heather Moyer, Sierra Club Senior Content Producer, Baltimore resident, and mom of that cute kid pictured above.