Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. It destroys the health of our air, water and climate, from mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, to its transport and burning at power plants across Maryland, to toxic waste left behind in the form of coal ash. The lifecycle of coal pollution has been linked to numerous health impacts, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and neurological damage. As scientists warn that we must keep two-thirds of all remaining fossil fuels in the ground to prevent runaway climate change impacts, we simply must move off of dirty coal and to clean energy sources.
CCAN is fighting on all fronts to move Maryland past coal. We’re pushing for stronger pollution controls in all coal mining, transport, processing and export facility permits, fighting for the strongest protections in the country on coal ash waste, and by finally shutting down the state’s dirtiest coal plants.
Shutting Down Dirty Coal Plant Pollution
In Maryland, there are seven coal-fired power plants generating about 40 percent of the state’s electricity. We’re working to transition Maryland to cleaner energy alternatives so that the health of nearby residents and the stability of our climate is no longer sacrificed for dirty coal profits.
Retiring dirty coal plants
By forcing Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants to adhere to the strictest pollution standards possible, CCAN is accelerating the shut down of some of our state’s dirtiest polluters. CCAN and the Environmental Integrity Project won a major victory to shut down the R. Paul Smith coal-fired power plant in Williamsport in September 2012. In December 2013, NRG Energy announced that it plans to shut down the Dickerson and Chalk Point coal-fired power plants, located in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties respectively, in May 2017.
Enforcing strict pollution standards
CCAN works on strengthening and enforcing air and water pollution regulations on coal plants through permits and enforcement actions.
In order to operate, coal plants have to obtain both air and water pollution permits that outline minimum standards for discharges of toxins into the environment. These permits are renewed every 5 to 10 years and go through a rigorous review process that includes stakeholders and local community members. As part of the process, the state agencies issuing the permits must provide the public a meaningful opportunity to review the permits and comment on them. They also host a public hearing to engage face-to-face and hear concerns from impacted community members. Public participation makes a big impact on the development of a strong pollution permit, therefore CCAN is committed to helping facilitate community involvement in the permitting process.
Cleaning Up Coal Ash in Maryland
Burning coal leaves behind a toxic by-product called coal combustion waste, or what is more commonly known as “coal ash.” Coal ash contains high levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury and has been linked to numerous health impacts including cancer, lung disease, respiratory distress, and neurological damage. Coal ash has a history of leaching heavy metals into drinking water supplies and neighboring water bodies. This is no small problem: the EPA estimates that 140 million tons of coal ash is generated annually – the second largest industrial waste stream in the U.S.
In Maryland, CCAN has been fighting to force the clean up of three coal ash landfills tied to the pollution of groundwater and nearby streams: the Brandywine landfill in Prince George’s County, the Faulkner landfill in Charles County, and the Westland landfill in Montgomery County, all owned by NRG Energy, a subsidiary of GenOn.
Historic Settlement Holds Major Polluter Accountable for Defying the Clean Water Act
In January 2013, CCAN and our allies at Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Patuxent Riverkeeper won a three-year legal fight to force GenOn (formerly Mirant) to clean up its three coal ash landfills in Maryland, which had been cited for hundreds of violations under the Clean Water Act. Our organizations helped to negotiate one of the strongest coal ash settlement agreements in the country. GenOn has agreed to pay $2.2 million in penalties and to clean up its Maryland landfills to ensure they do not pollute local waterways in the future. Finally, nearby residents will get the protections they deserve from toxic coal ash pollution. To read the entire consent decree, click here.
Coal Exports: Exporting Climate Change from Baltimore to the World
Our region is on the front lines of a new dirty coal threat: The increasing export of coal mined in Appalachia to Asia and Europe. Baltimore, along with Norfolk, Virginia, is one of the nation’s biggest gateways for coal exports. This increased export activity harms the global climate and our region’s communities. Shipping more coal overseas will expand mining threats in Appalachia, overload rail communities with toxic coal dust and diesel soot, increase pollution of air and waterways near ports, and risk our families’ health.
CCAN is working to block the surge of coal exports on the East Coast to protect our communities and to keep this dirty, pre-historic fuel in the ground. Learn more on our regional and Baltimore-specific work by seeing: