Wheelabrator Baltimore, NWRA and Others File Suit Against City of Baltimore

The lawsuit challenges the Baltimore Clean Air Act, which would force the closure of the city’s two large waste incinerators.

Waste360 Staff, Staff

May 1, 2019

3 Min Read
Wheelabrator Baltimore, NWRA and Others File Suit Against City of Baltimore

Wheelabrator Baltimore, Curtis Bay Energy, the Energy Recovery Council, National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and TMS Hauling have filed a lawsuit against the city of Baltimore challenging the city’s emission standards. The lawsuit was filed on April 30 in the Maryland U.S. District Court.

In March, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh signed into law the Baltimore Clean Air Act, unanimously passed by the City Council in February. The law is expected to force the closure of two large waste incinerators in the city: Wheelabrator Baltimore, a 2,250-ton-per-day trash incinerator; and Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services, the nation’s largest medical waste incinerator, which accepts waste from 20 states and Canada.

The act was developed by the national environmental justice nonprofit Energy Justice Network in conjunction with the Baltimore City Health Department, which will enforce the law. The act mandates real-time monitoring of 20 pollutants at the city’s two waste incinerators by September 2020 and requires that they meet the strongest standards in North America for four major air pollutants: mercury and sulfur dioxides by September 2020 and dioxins and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by January 1, 2022.

Wheelabrator Baltimore issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

“We, together with the National Waste & Recycling Association, the Energy Recovery Council, Curtis Bay Energy LP and a small Baltimore-based waste hauler, are challenging the city ordinance in federal court as unlawful. Under federal and state law, the city does not have the authority to infringe on an area—air quality—already fully protected by federal and state laws, regulations, permits and enforcement programs. The city’s ordinance, which will cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, sets arbitrary standards. In contrast, the existing stringent limits in federal and state regulations are based upon evidence-based scientific studies that aggressively protect public health and the environment by requiring installation and operation of the best available pollution control technologies. Even more unreasonable are the requirements in the city law to install emissions monitoring technology that does not exist. We are confident we will prevail in court.”

From the beginning, NWRA has maintained the city’s regulations would require the installation of monitoring equipment that is costly and may not accurately measure the air emissions as required by the proposed rule.

Back in February, NWRA sent a letter to the Baltimore City Council urging it to reconsider its proposed air quality regulations. NWRA has stressed that the Wheelabrator and Curtis Bay facilities are already regulated by strict state and federal regulations.

“NWRA joins Wheelabrator and Curtis Bay Energy LP in asking the federal court to declare the Baltimore Clean Air Act to be unlawful and preempted under federal and Maryland laws,” said Darrell Smith, NWRA president and CEO, in a statement released on April 30. “The solid waste facilities operated by Wheelebrator and Curtis Bay Energy LP have met all science-based emissions standards established under federal and state laws and are fully licensed to operate under federal and state law. The facilities are an indispensable component of Baltimore’s solid waste management plan.”

In addition to this lawsuit, Wheelabrator is suing the Baltimore County government for damages to exceed $32 million for reneging its contract by not sending enough trash to its waste-to-energy facility.

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