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Md. Ranks 5th In Nation For Toxic Air, Coal-Burning Plants Blamed

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A new report reveals the air you’re breathing in Maryland is some of the most toxic in the nation. But our No. 5 ranking may be misleading.

Mike Hellgren tells us why.

On a day when you can hardly see Baltimore’s skyline through the haze, an environmental watchdog group ranks Maryland fifth in the nation for toxic air.

The Natural Resources Defense Council blames coal, more than 27 million pounds of toxins into the air you breathe, accounting for a staggering 91 percent of Maryland’s pollution.

“Overall, for the state, the numbers are going to be dramatically reduced,” said Kevin Thornton, Constellation Energy.

Thornton represents Constellation Energy, owner of the plant the report calls the biggest polluter–Brandon Shores near Baltimore’s border with Anne Arundel County.

He says the numbers are two years old—calculated before a billion-dollar investment that reduced the plant’s emissions by more than half.

“People will look at this plant and say, ‘That’s an amazing example of how environmental controls can work at fossil fuel plants, and this is really one of the cleanest coal-burning plants in the country now,’” Thornton said. 

“I do have concerns about grandkids,” said Lawrence “Moon” Carey, who lives near Brandon Shores. “I have a great grandkid and stuff like that–sure.” 

Carey has lived nearby his entire 76 years. He still worries about the cumulative effect of the pollutants.

“Same as across the river…Sparrows Point…Same as Inner Harbor.  I mean, it’s still there,” Carey said. 

State environmental officials praise the work reducing emissions but point to another threat.

“The bad news for Maryland is as much as 70 percent of air pollution can actually come from out-of-state,” said Dawn Stoltzfus, Maryland Department of the Environment.

The NRDC’s report lists Ohio as No. 1 for toxic air, followed by Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.

These plants that feed America’s growing demand for energy aren’t emissions free, something their neighbors have grown used to.

“We just look at it. We live here. We’re going to live here. We’re going to die here,” Carey said.

The other top toxic-generating plants were Chalk Point in Prince George’s County and Morgantown in Charles County.

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