New Report Shows Clean Energy Can Lower Natural Gas Prices for Virginia Consumers

A coalition of Virginia renewable energy stakeholders, lead by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), released a report today that outlines how adopting mandatory renewable energy legislation will save Virginians’ $30 million dollars in energy costs over the next ten years. The report is part of a campaign CCAN is waging to get Virginia to adopt legislation mandating 15 to 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. Continue reading

Climate Activists Arrested Protesting Coal-fired Power Plant Near Nation's Capital

Demonstrators decry Mirant Corporation for ignoring public health and global warming; call on Maryland legislature to pass “Four Pollutant” bill soon.


November 10th, 2004

DICKERSON, Md. — A group of individuals representing students, environmentalists, the faith community, farmers and elected officials Wednesday protested the negative health impacts and ecological destruction caused by the Dickerson power plant in Montgomery County, Maryland. Six activists, including Rabbi David Shneyer and CCAN director Mike Tidwell, were arrested after peacefully blocking the entrance to the plant.

This coal-burning plant, owned by the Atlanta-based Mirant Corporation, is a major source of mercury (fish contamination), carbon dioxide (global warming), nitrogen oxide (smog) and sulfur dioxide (acid rain) in our region. Indeed, this one plant creates enough carbon dioxide per day as would be created by nearly 200,000 Hummers driven a typical daily distance of 41 miles each.”Mirant has utterly refused to support a fair and feasible legislative solution in Maryland that would greatly clean up emissions from these smokestacks,” said Tidwell, who was released by police Wednesday afternoon with a citation for blocking traffic. “It’s now time for the Maryland General Assembly to act in the public interest and clean up this power plant and others like it before climate change and air pollution further degrade our quality of life.”

A number of distinguished speakers challenged Mirant to fulfill its moral and corporate responsibilities to protect human health and to stop opposing meaningful state and federal legislation designed to reduce power plant pollution. Speakers included George Leventhal of the Montgomery County Council, noted Episcopal priest Sally Bingham, and Bill Price, a West Virginia Sierra Club activist whose home has been damaged by the impacts of mountaintop removal for coal.

“Mirant is by far the largest polluter in Montgomery County,” said Leventhal, a noted clean energy supporter. “This one plant creates more greenhouse pollution than all the registered cars in our county – more than 600,000 vehicles – combined. The federal government is failing to act so Maryland must take action and protect us all from Mirant.”

Mirant owns and operates four large coal-burning plants in the DC area: one in Alexandria, Va. and one each in Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Charles Counties. These power plants cause disease and avoidable deaths throughout the region, ranging from heart disease to cancer to asthma.

In October, after the threat of legal action from the state of Virginia and heavy public pressure, Mirant finally agreed to substantially cut nitrogen oxide emissions from its plants. But the company refuses to support reductions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide.

“Thanks to Mirant’s influence and that of other energy companies, Maryland now ranks far behind neighboring states in reducing deadly power plant pollution,” said Tidwell. “Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York have all recently set vastly improved pollution standards. But Maryland is so bad that North Carolina is actually suing the state because our power plant pollution drifts that far. It’s a disgrace and Mirant bears a large responsibility.”

Tidwell pointed out that two U.S. states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, now regulate carbon dioxide. Given the growing impacts of global warming on the Chesapeake Bay Region, protesters Wednesday strongly urged Maryland to set strong goals for CO2 reductions and/or “offsets” at plants like Dickerson.

More than half of all electricity generated in Maryland comes from burning coal. Consultants for the U.S. EPA estimate that fine particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants cuts short the lives of 687 Marylanders each year. Air pollution from power plants causes 85 lung cancer deaths and 1,014 heart attacks in Maryland each year, according to research reported by Clear the Air, a nonprofit advocacy group in D.C.

Across the DC region, air pollution from power plants sends 180,000 residents to the hospital each year and 3,900 to the emergency room. Clear the Air reports that infants in areas with high levels of particulate matter pollution face a 26-percent increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and a 40-percent increased risk of respiratory death. The state of Maryland, meanwhile, has a mercury health advisory on all its rivers and lakes, including the Potomac. Women of childbearing age and children are advised to severely limit the amount of fish they eat from these rivers.

Mountaintop removal for coal, meanwhile, has destroyed more than 300,000 acres of prime mountain ecosystems in nearby Appalachia in the past ten years. Another 300,000 acres are slated for annihilation over the next decade. And coal-fired power plants are major contributors to global warming. The EPA reports that near-term global warming could reduce acreage devoted to top agricultural crops in Maryland by 42% due to shifting precipitation patterns. A projected sea level rise of three feet by 2100, triggered by global warming, would destroy Maryland’s coastal beaches and profoundly disrupt economic and ecological life throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

All of these impacts could be dramatically reduced by adopting readily achievable technology that scrubs pollutants from smokestacks before release into the environment. Demonstrators called on the Maryland General Assembly to require implementation of such safeguards in the form of a so-called “Four Pollutant” bill. A bill before the Maryland legislature this coming January would cut NOx, SOx and mercury by 80 percent or more and CO2 by a third.

But the Mirant Corporation has repeatedly helped kill previous legislation like this in Maryland as well as at the federal level. The company, meanwhile, is under investigation by the US Justice Department and the California attorney general for Enron-like rip-offs in California. The company also exceeded its pollution permits repeatedly at two DC-area power plants in recent years, and the company has been delinquent in paying its taxes in Montgomery, Prince Georges and Charles Counties.

“It’s finally time for Mirant to fully clean up its act,” said Tidwell. “It’s time for all companies who burn coal in Maryland to fulfill their responsibility to our state’s children and precious ecosystems.”

Major DC "Coal" Polluter Falls Short on Climate, Mercury

After great pressure, corporation agrees to partial clean up


September 27th

SILVER SPRING, MD – After great community pressure and the threat of legal action from state regulators, the largest coal-burning power company in the D.C. region finally agreed on Monday to a partial reduction of its damaging pollution emissions. Unfortunately, the agreement doesn’t go nearly far enough and represents only a first step in protecting our regional health and environment from the devastating impacts of coal.

On Monday, the Mirant corporation, after negotiations with Maryland, Virginia and U.S. EPA officials, announced a 2/3 reduction in smog-forming Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions from the company’s four D.C.-area coal-fired power plants. These plants produce most of the region’s electricity. But the agreement actually allows Mirant to increase NOx emissions at its aging and controversial Alexandria, VA plant from the current level of 1,019 tons/year to a new level of 1,475 tons/year.

And just as importantly, Mirant did not agree to cut emissions of the other three major pollutants from coal-fired power plants: 1) sulfur dioxide (SO2) which causes acid rain, 2) mercury which can cause significant health problems in children, and 3) carbon dioxide (CO2) which is driving global climate disruption. Until these three other pollutants are dramatically reduced, Mirant will continue to greatly harm the D.C. region with its power generation.

Mirant announced the NOx reductions after it had already massively violated Virginia’s emission standards for summertime NOx pollution. The company’s announced NOx cuts are still not as much as the company would have had to do anyway had the Bush Administration not dropped enforcement of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review provision. Mirant was under investigation for exceeding emissions standards for other pollutants before the Bush Administration dropped the case.

We call on our leaders in Maryland and Virginia to pass state-based “Four Pollutant” legislation that requires Mirant and other coal-burning power companies to cut emissions of ALL pollutants, not just one.

Coal is a dangerous and unhealthy energy source from the moment it’s mined until the moment it’s burned to produce electricity. Mountain Top Removal coal mining is destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of prime ecosystem in West Virginia and ruining many small communities. Coal is the most carbon intensive energy source, putting a disproportionate amount of global warming gases into our atmosphere. Global warming is the single biggest environmental and health challenge we and our children face.

We need to set a course for a future free of coal, with our homes and businesses powered by clean, renewable energy. We call on Mirant to cut NOx emissions at the Potomac River Plant in Alexandria, to commit to phasing out all of its coal-fired power plants within a generation, and to dramatically cut emissions of the three other major pollutants and fine particulate matter in the meantime.

Gary Skulnik, Clean Energy Partnership, 301-754-0430

Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-460-5838

Eric Schaeffer, Environmental Integrity Project, 202-296-8800