Morgantown Coal Plant to Retire in 2022, Five Years Earlier Than Previously Announced

Friday, June 11, 2021Contact: 

Alex Amend, alex.amend@sierraclub.org

ANNAPOLIS — Earlier this week, GenOn Holdings, Inc. announced that it plans to retire units 1 and 2 at the Morgantown Generating Station by June 2022, five years earlier than the company previously announced late last year. 

For 50 years, working families in Charles County have been made to bear the economic, environmental, and public health costs of living next to a dirty polluting coal plant, which continues to be a significant source of toxic water pollution and smog-forming pollution. The retirement of Morgantown will help put an end to GenOn’s discharges of arsenic, selenium, and mercury into the Potomac, as well as emissions of harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Small peaking units that burn oil and run infrequently will remain online.

The company attributed the decision to retire Morgantown on an accelerated timeline to “unfavorable economic conditions” and the cost to properly bring the plant into compliance with federal environmental laws. Ever more affordable clean energy generation and the pressing need to address the climate crisis have helped drive the coal industry’s decline nationwide. 

GenOn also announced the retirements of Avon Lake Generating Station, located in Ohio, and Cheswick Generating Station, located in Pennsylvania. 

Reuben Collins, II, Esq, Charles County Commissioner President, released the following statement:

“The announcement that GenOn will accelerate its retirement of the coal burning sections of the plant brings final closure to a past era of reliance on fossil fuels. Our community is committed to cleaner energy and developing a path forward that protects our environment while opening the door to an enhanced quality of life for our residents. We will work closely with GenOn to safely close it down and develop a remediation plan that will provide opportunities for future revitalization of this extraordinary waterfront location in Charles County.”

Dyotha Sweat, Charles County NAACP Chair, released the following statement: 

“Morgantown once received a D letter grade from the NAACP in the Coal Blooded report for its abysmal environmental record, so we’re thrilled to see the closure even earlier than scheduled. Now, we can start the healing process and begin rebuilding a healthier and cleaner source of economic activity in our county that will truly benefit us all. With the early closure, we want to ensure that environmental justice includes proper clean up of the Morgantown facility and most importantly, proper employment transition for the employees affected.”

Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper at Potomac Riverkeeper Network, released the following statement:

“The Morgantown plant has been discharging selenium, mercury and arsenic to the Potomac River for decades, poisoning fish and people. Closing Morgantown’s coal units will be good for the river and communities nearby, but we need to make sure that any closure plan includes requirements to clean up legacy contamination at Morgantown that could continue to pollute the environment long after it’s closed.” 

David Smedick, Senior Campaign Representative of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign released the following statement: 

“Today, we celebrate with the community leaders who fought against coal pollution for decades. This news means five fewer years of burning coal and polluting our air and water. However, this accelerated time frame underscores yet again the urgency of having a transition plan in place for workers and communities that have depended on the plant’s revenues and that have borne the brunt of harmful pollution for decades. Companies like GenOn can decide when it is most advantageous for their bottom line to pull the plug on a plant. Policymakers have vanishingly few excuses to establish a timely transition plan off coal and to clean energy that supports our communities, protects residents from further pollution burden, and promotes good union jobs for impacted workers.”

Leah Kelly, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, released the following statement:

“The coal units at the Morgantown plant have been discharging toxic pollutants into the air and water for decades. GenOn’s decision to retire these burners earlier than expected is good news for nearby communities and the climate. Now Maryland and the U.S. government need to find a way to fast-track the development of industries like offshore wind that can provide clean energy and good-paying jobs.”

Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, released the following statement:

“This announcement is very good news for the people who live near the coal plant who have been living with pollution from this plant for far too long. It’s also good news for the climate. Last month, we learned that the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached the highest levels in human history. We must implement a just transition to clean energy immediately to avoid the worst impacts from the climate crisis we’re in.”

###

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

Meet the Virginia Organizers!

We want to hear and see you (as safely as possible)! CCAN organizers from Virginia Beach to Fairfax will be available for socially distanced, outdoor meetings. 

Each organizer has a slightly different schedule so check out the times and locations below to find a meet-up near you (and lunch is on us on a first come, first served basis).

Elle De La Cancela — Central Virginia

Lauren Landis — Hampton Roads

Zander Pellegrino — NoVA

Virginia Natural Gas Files to Withdraw Their Application for the Interconnect Project

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2021
Contact: Laura Cofsky, laura@chesapeakeclimate.org, 202-642-9336

VNG concludes the Interconnect Project is “no longer needed”


Richmond, VA — This weekend, Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) filed a motion to withdraw its proposal to build the Interconnect Project, which would have built high pressure fracked gas pipelines in Prince William and Fauquier counties as well as a new compressor station in Prince William county.

VNG had planned to build the Interconnect in Northern Virginia primarily based off of plans from a previously cancelled project called the Header Improvement Project (HIP). HIP was meant to service the controversial C4GT gas plant in Charles City County, which came under heavy criticism from activists for its reckless permit avoidance. Ultimately, VNG was unable to prove that C4GT had secured adequate financing, and HIP was cancelled.

In this weekend’s motion to withdraw, VNG cited that the buyer’s need had changed, rendering the Interconnect Project “no longer needed as proposed.” This is the second Virginia pipeline this month to face an uphill battle to viability, in the face of extensive grassroots opposition and shifting financial incentives. To complete the withdrawal process, the State Corporation Commission will need to formally accept VNG’s motion to withdraw.

“This is exciting news for Prince William residents and Virginians across the state fighting fossil fuel developments,” said Chesapeake Climate Action Network Northern Virginia Organizer Zander Pellegrino. “This decision proves what we already know to be true: that organizing works and that new fossil fuel projects do not make sense. In order to keep our communities safe and ecosystems healthy, we need to end fossil fuel development and fund a just transition in Virginia.”

“The Interconnect Project was Virginia Natural Gas’ attempt to shoehorn part of the already failed Header Improvement Project into a new dirty fracked gas proposal,” said Food & Water Watch Virginia Organizer Jolene Mafnas. “We have been fighting this dangerous and unnecessary proposal for months. If approved, Interconnect would have emitted toxic pollutants and cut through Prince William’s Rural Crescent — we are hopeful this will be the end of this terrible plan. As we celebrate this victory, we double down on our work to ensure that state agencies investigate other dirty fossil fuel projects like C4GT’s problematic permit avoidance.”

“We’re so happy to see them withdraw,” said Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions Prince William County Hub Community Organizer Sashia Scott. “As a faith based-organization, this project would have violated the moral responsibility we encourage: good stewardship over the earth and those that inhabit it.”

“We are celebrating yet another failed fracked gas project that was doomed before even starting,” said Mothers Out Front Northern Virginia Community Organizer Tiziana Bottino. “The families that would have been affected are breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing this unnecessary project will not threaten them any longer, but we are left to wonder how many more failed fossil fuel proposals it will take before those companies realize a just clean energy transition is not only economically feasible, but necessary.” 

###

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For nearly 20 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

State-Based Energy Groups: Congress Must Pass Biden’s 100% Clean Electricity Standard Now

Nonprofits active in every region of the country say renewable power mandate is key to solving climate change, creating new jobs, and addressing equity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 22, 2021

Contact: Laura Cofsky, laura@chesapeakeclimate.org, 202-642-9336

Mike Tidwell, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-460-583

WASHINGTON, DC — Six of the nation’s best-known groups fighting climate change at the state and regional levels today asked Congress to quickly pass President Biden’s proposal for 100% clean electricity nationwide by 2035. Such a measure, the groups say, would dramatically build on proven local successes in using clean-energy mandates to create jobs, clean the air, and fight climate change.

As a candidate, Joe Biden pledged to quickly enact legislation mandating that all the nation’s electricity be carbon-pollution free by the year 2035. That legislative vote will likely come before Congress soon – sometime this spring. 

In a letter to House and Senate leaders today, the regional leaders said such a policy was “vital” in the fight against global warming while rebuilding the US economy with environmental justice. Read the letter here.

The six signatory groups are active in 27 states whose populations, collectively, exceed 155 million people. 

Said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the signatory groups: 

“Congress, right now, must build on state-based successes in advancing wind and solar and other clean electricity sources. Joe Biden’s 100%-by-2035 plan will have a global impact while capitalizing on these state-based track records. We’ve already created 2.5 million jobs using similar policies in regions from New England to the Pacific Northwest and from the Chesapeake Bay to the Rocky Mountains. It’s now time for Congress to make 100% clean electricity our national policy.” 

Groups signing today’s letter to Congress are: 

  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, D.C.
  • Climate Solutions – Oregon, Washington
  • Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi
  •  Acadia Center – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York
  • Western Resources Advocates Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
  • Fresh Energy – Minnesota

###

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For nearly 20 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

New Patrick Gonzales Poll: Montgomery County Voters Are Highly Concerned About Climate Change and Want Major Action Soon, Especially on Solar Power

More than 75 Percent of Voters Say They Want a Concrete Plan, Within Six Months, that Will Lead to “Major” Pollution Cuts. Nearly 69 Percent Support Solar Power on Farmland With a Cap.

ROCKVILLE, MD – A bi-partisan majority of Montgomery County voters in Maryland say they are personally concerned about the rising impacts of climate change, with a whopping 94 percent of Democrats expressing concern. In a new poll released today,  voters also say they are eager to see the County Council keep a 2017 promise by adopting — within six months — a plan that will lead to “major pollution cuts.” As a first step, nearly 69 percent of voters countywide support a bill now before the Council to allow a limited number of solar farms on agricultural land in the northern part of the county. 

The poll, conducted by noted Maryland pollster Patrick Gonzales, comes just one day after Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released a long-awaited Draft Climate Action Plan for the county. It includes a host of recommendations but no concrete legislative plan to achieve pollution reductions. 

“This poll clearly shows enormous voter support for climate action in Montgomery County — but also growing impatience with the pace of action, “ said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The County Executive and Council must do more, and soon, to keep pace with voter expectations as extreme weather pummels our region.”

The Gonzales poll, commissioned by CCAN, shows that a strong 70 percent of Montgomery voters support the County Council’s 2017 declaration of a “climate emergency.” That declaration called for an 80% reduction in climate pollution by 2027, but the Council has adopted no major bills to make this happen in three years. Now 75.1 percent of voters want major action within six months.

More immediately, voters overwhelmingly support a bill, passed by a committee of the County Council last summer, to place a limited number of solar farms in the County’s Agricultural Reserve with certain conditions. But full passage of the bill has not yet occurred. Interestingly, the greatest voter support for the bill comes from the County’s District 1 which contains most of the Ag Reserve.

The poll was conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services from December 2nd through December 6th, 2020. A total of 325 registered voters in Montgomery County, who indicated that they vote regularly in county elections, were queried by live telephone interviewers, utilizing both landlines and cell phones. The margin of error, per accepted statistical standards, is a range of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

“This is a noteworthy poll for Montgomery County with strong results on policy questions,” said Patrick Gonzales. “We asked clear and direct questions that help fill in some of the voter opinion gaps that always exist on key issues, especially at the more local level.”

For the past 35 years, Patrick Gonzales has been widely recognized in Maryland for his ability to conduct unbiased surveys, and analyze the results in an impartial, even-handed manner.

A recap of key findings from the report include:

  • Eighty three percent of voters in Montgomery County are concerned about climate change
  • By party, 94% of Democrats; 69% of independents; and 51% of Republicans are worried about global warming
  • Closer to home, 70% of residents support the resolution the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed in 2017 declaring a climate change emergency
  • Further, a supermajority 75% of Montgomery County voters support the County Council adopting a climate solution plan within the next 6 months
  • Nearly 69 percent supported a limited number of solar farms in the County’s Agricultural Reserve as long as most of the solar energy powers the homes of low and moderate income residents of the county

Further breakdowns by age, gender, race, district, and political party can all be found within the report. You can download it here.

###

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Contact:
Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-460-5838
Laura Cofsky, CCAN, laura@chesapeakeclimate.org, 202-642-9336

Key Permit for Eastern Shore Pipeline APPROVED

CONTACT

Laura Cofsky, laura@chesapeakeclimate.org, 202-642-9336
Anthony Field, anthony@chesapeakeclimate.org, 301-664-4068

Advocacy Groups Criticize Maryland Board of Public Works Decision in Wake of Climate Change and Justice Concerns

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Leading environmental and justice groups expressed shock today after members of the Board of Public Works voted 3 to 0 to approve a key permit for the Del-Mar Pipeline to carry fracked gas into the Eastern Shore region of Maryland. The Del-Mar Pipeline is one of the two controversial, dirty-energy pipelines proposed for the region in an era of rapid climate change and environmental justice sensitivity. 

Although Wednesday’s vote does not guarantee the pipeline will be built, it does signal that opponents of the project — including the NAACP and Chesapeake Climate Action Network — are running out of options for fighting it. The Del-Mar pipeline is already under construction in Delaware to carry gas from that state into Maryland. The seven miles of pipeline proposed for Maryland would supply concentrated animal feeding operations, businesses, and residential areas. 

“By approving the Del-Mar pipeline, the Board has elected to ignore numerous climate change and environmental justice concerns,” CCAN’s Maryland campaign coordinator Anthony Field said. “Building this pipeline will set back the state’s climate goals while further burdening vulnerable communities on the Eastern Shore.”

For months, the Hogan Administration has put its thumb on the scale in favor of this project. While studies have shown that there are cheaper and viable alternatives to gas, including electrification and geothermal energy, the State of Maryland didn’t consider any of these options. Instead, it only requested applications for a gas pipeline to supply fracked gas to two state-run facilities.

“The proposed pipeline will produce large quantities of deadly methane that will accelerate global heating,” said John Groutt of the Wicomico Environmental Trust. “The Delmarva Peninsula is the third most threatened area of the country for flooding. Intruding salt water is already destroying productive agricultural land and forests, and this will increase with this project. The same energy could be supplied easily and more cheaply by solar and wind without the harmful side effects.” 

The two proposed pipelines are part of the Hogan Administration’s plans to spend $103 million significantly increasing fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure in the state. This includes $30.3 million administered by the Maryland Energy Administration’s (MEA) new Maryland Gas Expansion Fund “for the expansion of natural gas infrastructure.” The remaining $70 million is recoverable from MD ratepayers. Read more about it here.

“This is not a smart decision,” Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Director Josh Tulkin said. “Greenlighting another fracked gas pipeline is like throwing more gasoline on the climate crisis. This project undermines the state’s climate goals and contradicts the recommendations of the Maryland Climate Commission, which is led by the Governor’s own Secretary of the Environment.”

As a next step, CCAN will continue to fight the pipeline, including the Chesapeake Utilities portion which is expected to come before the Board in the next couple of months. 

###

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.