Incinerators are toxic to surrounding communities and the climate. Incinerators emit high levels of mercury pollution and ultra-fine particulate matter, one of the most dangerous known pollutants to human health. Trash-burning also emits more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than does burning coal.

Click here for a downloadable factsheet by Clean Water Action

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BILL TEXT: The Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Eligible Sources Act (SB560/HB438)

What’s wrong with waste incineration?

The incineration industry has tried to rebrand incineration as “waste-to-energy” in recent years. Unfortunately, trash incineration is currently included in Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard as a Tier 1 renewable energy source.

Trash incinerators are a far cry from being a clean, renewable energy source. Aside from their frighteningly high mercury emissions, incinerators also release ultra-fine particulate matter, one of the most dangerous known pollutants to human health. Installing even the most cutting-edge pollution control technology does not eliminate toxins – it can only collect them into concentrated forms that must be landfilled. Also, waste incineration is terrible for the climate: per unit of energy (MWh), trash incineration produces more carbon dioxide than burning coal.

Trash-Burning Incineration in Maryland

Proponents of incineration claim that this technology is “green,” but this simply isn’t true. Instead, incineration relies upon the continued production of trash and the importation of trash from other states to keep incinerators running – burdening Maryland residents with the resulting pollution.

Incineration also undermines the strong clean energy laws that Maryland already has on the books. The state boasts a robust mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS), which requires that the state get 50% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2030. This important legislation was passed with the hope of encouraging the development of clean, renewable energy throughout the state. Renewable energy sources are classified using a tiered system, so that the cleanest energy sources count toward the RPS goals more than others. Trash incinerators were classified as a “Tier Two” energy source under Maryland’s RPS until 2011, when new legislation moved incinerators up to “Tier One.”

As a Tier One energy source, burning trash competes with legitimate renewable energy sources like wind and solar and gains subsidies under the state’s clean electricity standard. This means that harmful, polluting incinerators will make up about three percent of the state’s renewable energy portfolio in 2020. (Wind, solar, and hydropower will make up 83 percent). Environmental and justice advocates, including CCAN, fought ferociously to close this loophole during the 2019 legislative session. We succeeded as part of a Senate version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) and we fought for two stand-alone bills in the House and the Senate to close the loophole. But none of our efforts garnered enough votes to pass out of the House Economic Matters Committee. In the end, the version of CEJA that passed both chambers did not close the loophole. Read more about it here.

Incinerators in Maryland


The BRESCO incinerator operated by Wheelabrator is Baltimore’s biggest stationary source of air pollution. Reducing local air pollution, and NOx in particular, is critical for public health in Baltimore. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) finalized a rulemaking process focused on Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) for NOx emissions at BRESCO in 2018 to establish stricter NOx limits at the facility in order to limit pollution in our city and protect public health from harmful emissions.

In addition to its high NOx emissions, in 2015, the BRESCO incinerator emitted roughly double the amount of greenhouse gases per megawatt hour of energy than each of the 6 largest coal plants in Maryland. Shockingly, Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard currently classifies incineration as a “Tier 1” renewable energy source, which means that BRESCO receives millions of dollars in subsidies every year. CCAN is committed to cleaning up our RPS and removing incentives for incineration. Removing undeserved subsidies for this polluting facility while tightening its NOx emissions limits will demonstrate that incineration is no longer a viable industry in Maryland and that zero waste is the path toward a healthier population and environment.

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility in Dickerson is a 24-year old trash incinerator and the largest polluter in the County – more than the nearby coal-fired power plant. The incinerator burns an average of about 570,000 tons of trash per year, turning it into 390,000 tons of air pollution and 180,000 tons of toxic ash that is dumped in Virginia landfills. Read more here.

VICTORY: Students, residents, and advocates successfully defeated Energy Answers’ plan to build the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator in the Curtis Bay neighborhood of Baltimore in 2016. Click to learn more about the defeated incinerator in the Curtis Bay neighborhood of Baltimore.

The Future of our Trash

Removing public subsidies for trash incinerators is part of a larger effort to build a just transition from incineration to zero waste. 75% of what we dispose of is recyclable or compostable The leftover 25% can be redesigned to avoid.

Zero waste is a goal to divert as much waste as possible from landfills and incinerators through increased recycling, composting, reuse programs and other initiatives.

Here’s how the Baltimore City Council plans to get there:

1). Promote composting, including developing a composting facility.
2). Provide free recycling bins to all Baltimore residents and extensive education ; on what can be recycled.
3). Ban styrofoam and implement a plastic bag fee.
4). Develop a plan for a “Save As You Throw” program to incentivize reductions in the amount of household garbage placed on the curb.
…And much more! The zero waste goal is reflected in the city’s 2019 Sustainability Plan.

A number of cities across the country, such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Austin have adopted zero waste plans to improve their sustainability. It’s time for Maryland to follow their lead. 

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In March 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 1325, which will place a permanent ban on fracking in Maryland. The House of Delegates and the Senate both passed the bill with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority, sending it to be signed by Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

This move follows six years of organizing against the drilling practice from a grassroots movement that included farmers, doctors, students, faith leaders, environmental groups, and others. In the final year of the campaign 16 municipalities across the state passed bans, resolutions or statements of support in favor of a ban on this harmful drilling practice. During the legislative session over 600 grassroots activists lobbied in favor of a ban on hydraulic fracturing and over a 1000 people took to the streets in Annapolis for a march and rally. In the last days of the campaign, a  group of 13 faith leaders and western Maryland residents were peacefully arrested in support of the fracking ban bill while it was being debated in the Senate, and one day later, Gov. Hogan reversed course to announce his support for a fracking ban.

Maryland will now become the first state in America with proven gas reserves to ban fracking by legislative action. It sets a nationally significant precedent as other states grapple with the dangerous drilling method. From Virginia (where leaders have imposed or proposed local bans at the county and municipal level) to the state of Florida (which is looking to follow Maryland’s statewide ban), the “keep-it-in-the-ground” movement is gaining new bipartisan steam. Read more here.

In neighboring states and across the nation, evidence is mounting that drilling and fracking for natural gas leads to polluted air and water, serious health problems, earthquakes and economic losses for local communities.

In Maryland, a growing grassroots movement has kept fracking at bay — for now. In the 2015 Maryland General Assembly, CCAN worked with over 70 groups in the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition to put a 2.5 year moratorium on fracking. Thanks to thousands of email and calls, lobby, meetings, actions and more, Governor Larry Hogan let HB 449 become law on May 29th, 2015. This bill puts a hold on drilling in Maryland until October 2017. 

But the gas industry began maneuvering to put fracking on the fast-track as soon as the moratorium would lift. There were over 100 groups working with the Don’t Frack Maryland Coalition to pass a ban on fracking in the 2017 General Assembly session. Our mission is to build an even more powerful grassroots movement to put a permanent, statewide ban on fracking by October 2017.

When the General Assembly came back in full-swing, our movement to ban fracking in Maryland moved at full-speed. The Maryland House of Delegates answered our movement’s call on March 10, 2017, when they passed House Bill 1325 to ban fracking with a bipartisan vote of 97-40. Just one week later in a historic move, Republican Governor Larry Hogan announced his support for a permanent statewide ban on fracking. Governor Hogan’s announcement came one day after 13 brave Marylanders were peacefully arrested outside of the State House to demand a ban on fracking. Soon after, the Senate finalized the ban on this risky drilling practice once and for all by putting Senate Bill 740 over the finish line.

Download the CCAN fracking activist toolkit: Get your city to endorse a ban on fracking.

Join the movement to ban fracking in Maryland: Email Brooke Harper at to volunteer.

The Fracking Threat in Maryland

Protect MD from Fracking

The science shows that fracking threatens the air we breathe and the water we drink, while also worsening climate change.

Maryland’s Garrett and Allegany Counties sit atop the Marcellus Shale gas basin and are on the front lines of potential fracking in the state. But the threat is statewide. Across Maryland, five different gas basins stretch underneath our communities and could potentially be fracked by the gas industry. For instance, the Taylorsville gas basin stretches under one-third of Prince George’s County. A Texas-based company has already leased land to frack for gas in the Virginia portion of this same basin.

In 2011, Governor O’Malley issued a temporary, three-year executive order that put a hold on drilling permits in Maryland and created a commission to assess whether or not fracking poses unacceptable risks to Marylanders. The resulting studies warned of many significant risks — especially to our health — if fracking is allowed to proceed.

Marylanders Oppose Fracking


A long-term hold on drilling in Maryland is not only the right choice — it’s what the Maryland public wants.

  • A 2016 OpinionWorks poll found that Maryland voters support a ban on fracking by a 2-to-1 margin.
  • In Garrett County, a prime target area for the oil and gas industry, the margin of support is more than 2-to-1, with 57% in support of a fracking ban and only 27% opposed.
  • The latest Washington Post poll found that a similarly strong majority of Marylanders — 60 percent — oppose fracking.

The Facts on Fracking

Fracking is a dangerous drilling method used to extract natural gas from shale rock. It involves drilling “L”-shaped pipelines deep underground and pumping a mixture of water, sand and toxic chemicals through them at high pressures to crack apart the rock and release gas packed within. (The chemicals used in fracking include benzene, xylene and toluene, all of which are known carcinogens.) Significant volumes of fracking fluid come back up to the surface loaded with heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials. This hazardous wastewater poses an enormous disposal challenge and the toxic chemicals in fracking fluid threaten to leach into our drinking water. The industrial well pads, machinery and truck traffic that come along with the drilling process disrupt rural towns, straining infrastructure, clogging roads, and adding to noise and air pollution.


The evidence is mounting showing fracking is dangerous to our health. Especially concerning, researchers are finding associations between proximity to oil and gas development and increases in birth defects and other adverse birth outcomes. Because some effects may take years to show up, the nature and the severity of the long-term, cumulative health impacts of fracking and drilling are still unknown.

Fracking is a statewide threat in Maryland. The Marcellus Shale is probably the best known gas basin in the nation. It’s an enormous underground rock formation that spans areas from New York to Virginia, including Maryland’s Garrett and Allegany counties. But that’s not all: Maryland sits atop not one, but five gas basins that the natural gas industry could frack.

Learn about the Movement to ban fracking in Maryland!

Over 100 groups (and counting) in Maryland added their names to a position statement calling for a ban on fracking – from climate groups like CCAN, to river keepers, outfitters, service unions, public interest organizations, health groups, farmers and faith groups.

And local opposition to fracking was widespread across Maryland:

  • Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, which together represent over a third of Maryland’s population, have effectively banned fracking.
  • The Frostburg City Council, which represents the largest municipality in western Maryland, voted unanimously to approve two measures designed to protect local water supplies from the toxic drilling practice, including a ban in city-owned property in Garrett County.
  • The Garrett County towns of Friendsville and Mountain Lake Park also banned fracking.
  • Councilmembers in Anne Arundel and Frederick Counties have called for a statewide ban
  • The Baltimore County Council passed a resolution urging a statewide ban on fracking.


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