Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator; Photo credit: Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun

Our years of work in Baltimore are paying off!

On March 7, 2019, the Baltimore's Mayor Pugh signed into law our Baltimore Clean Air Act. This is the culmination of years of work to close the highly polluting waste incinerators in the city. It's also a new phase in our ongoing work to transition Baltimore from incineration to zero waste and clean energy.

Since June 2017, Baltimore City Council passed four unanimous resolutions calling for a transition from incineration to zero waste. On November 19th, 2018, Baltimore City Council introduced our Baltimore Clean Air Act, and on January 30th, the Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously approved it with a 7-0 vote! It passed City Council unanimously on Feb. 11th, 2019 and, as of the mayor's signing on March 7th, is now law.

This new law will 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.

Wheelabrator Baltimore burns up to 2,250 tons of trash per day and is the largest air polluter in (heavily industrialized) Baltimore by far, responsible for 36% of the city's industrial air pollution. Curtis Bay Energy burns about 70 tons of medical waste per day, importing medical waste from 20 states plus DC and Canada! It's one of a small number of medical waste incinerators remaining in the nation, since over 6,000 closed in the U.S. as hospitals have moved toward cheaper and safer non-burn alternatives.

The Baltimore Clean Air Act requires that these incinerators meet the most protective standards in North America for nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury and dioxin pollution from incinerators. It also requires that they continuously monitor 20 different air pollutants and release the data on this pollution real-time to a public website.

On April 30th, 2019, Wheelabrator, Curtis Bay Energy, and two waste industry trade associations sued Baltimore City to stop the law, using legal arguments that the city’s Law Department previously described as “demonstratively false.” They claim that the city doesn’t have the authority to pass such a law, even though federal and state law clearly permit it. The city’s case is strong, and we look forward to a positive court precedent in early 2020! Check out the filings in the lawsuit, including our advice to the court. In late January 2020, the City agreed to pause implementation of the law, which was to take effect in September 2020, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Find more info about the Act at www.cleanairbmore.org/cleanairact.

If you're in Baltimore and have noticed Wheelabrator's many desperate mailings opposing the Clean Air Act, please see our responses here.

We encourage other communities to follow Baltimore's lead and work with us to develop local ordinances to hold polluters accountable (and prevent new ones) in your town. Check out our resources on stopping polluters with local ordinances, and be in touch!