Abell Salutes: The Environment Integrity Project

February 2007 / Salutes / Community Development, Environment

For doing what it does best—forcing polluters to clean up their acts.

The Patuxent Riverkeeper, Fred Tutman, was the first to notice the stacks of Mirant Energy’s Chalk Point Generation Station belching sooty smoke in the skies above Chalk Point in Prince George’s County. Others living and working in the region, members of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, saw it and reported that they were getting complaints. What the region was witnessing was the discharge into the atmosphere of toxic chemicals– sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Enter Environment Integrity Project (EIP), which proceeded to do what it does best: forcing polluters to clean up their acts.

According to Eric Schaefer, Executive Director of EIP, “We filed notice of intent to sue for failure to comply with emissions limits for opacity or soot. As a result of the threat of the suit, the plant will switch from fuel oil to relatively clean natural gas during the summer ozone months. The state has acknowledged that our enforcement action was the catalyst for the clean-up.”

EIP has a growing record for getting results. In July, responding to EIP’s pressure, Allegheny Power agreed to a massive cleanup of the Hatfield’s Ferry plant by installing scrubbers that will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by approximately 145,000 tons per year.

Mr. Schaefer says, “Support from the Abell Foundation has made it possible for EIP to fight for enforcement of the Clean Air Act right here in Maryland, where too many neighborhoods suffer from unhealthy levels of air pollution. Enforcement can help bring our environmental laws to life, make our air safer to breathe, and promote the cleaner technologies we need in the twenty-first century.

“The Maryland Department of the Environment has promised to revise its current enforcement policy, which effectively prevents the state from enforcing its own emission standards for soot. The state agreed to do this after we filed our lawsuit against Chalk Point. So we got two for the price of one: a cleanup of the Chalk Point plant, and withdrawal of a policy that prevents MDE from enforcing its own soot standards against other facilities. The policy hasn’t actually been revised yet, but I think we have a pretty ironclad commitment from the state to do so.”

The Environmental Integrity Project is a non-partisan, non-profit organization established in March 2002 to advocate for more effective enforcement of environmental laws. The organization was founded by Mr. Schaefer with support from the Rockefeller Fund and over time by other foundations, including The Abell Foundation. It lists three objectives: to provide objective analysis of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects the public health; to hold federal and state agencies as well as individual corporations accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental law; and to help local communities in key states obtain the protection of environmental laws.

EIP’s work has been cited in Congressional hearings and in reports by the U.S. General Accounting office, and in frequent news articles. EIP periodically evaluates the effectiveness of federal and state environmental programs, offering recommendations for improvement while recognizing outstanding performance.

EIP works with grassroots organizations across the country and is significantly expanding in Maryland.

The Abell Foundation salutes the EIP and Executive Director Eric Schaefer for doing what they do best — forcing polluters to clean up their act.