| Sourced From Washingtonexaminer |
A $2 billion power company is suing Montgomery County over a newly enacted carbon dioxide tax that would cost the company roughly $15 million each year.
Mirant Mid-Atlantic emits roughly 3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from a decades-old coal-burning plant in Dickerson. The power company is challenging the constitutionality of Montgomery’s $5-per-ton carbon tax and refusing to pay the tax until the lawsuit is settled.
County Council member Roger Berliner said he is confident the county will prevail, though he predicts the case will take years to settle.
“If I were [Mirant],” he said, “I would undoubtedly bring this to the court of appeals. It is the kind of case that will go to the Supreme Court.”
County attorneys did not return calls concerning how much the litigation could cost taxpayers if it survives several rounds of appeals.
Mirant’s attorneys said they do not comment on ongoing litigation.
The suit contends the tax targets Mirant because it applies only to companies generating more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. No other company in Montgomery is eligible for the tax.
Berliner admitted the tax singles out Mirant — which he said accounts for 25 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions — but said it doesn’t target the company.
“It ensures that future businesses coming into the county know what the rules of the game are going to be if they are major polluters,” he said.
The county can impose a penalty of up to 20 percent of the company’s dues if they don’t pay up, according to the carbon law, which went into effect May 28.
The Environmental Integrity Project in 2005 named Mirant’s 1,000-acre property in Dickerson one of the 50 dirtiest plants in the United States. That same year, four environmental groups sued the company over nearly 500 tons of illegal nitrogen oxide emissions from the Dickerson plant. The parties settled on a promise that Mirant would improve pollution controls.
Two months ago, Maryland’s Department of the Environment filed suit against Mirant for a coal-ash landfill the state says is polluting groundwater and a nearby creek.
Berliner said the county fully expected a fight from Mirant on the carbon tax, and therefore didn’t write into the budget the $15 million in revenue the tax would have generated.