Annapolis, MD – Today, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) announced its proposal to reject permit revision requests that would have significantly delayed water pollution safeguards at the Chalk Point (Prince George), Dickerson (Montgomery County) and Morgantown (Charles County) coal-fired power plants. The updated water pollution permits require the plants to put in place mandatory pollution control measures to reduce discharges of toxic metals into the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers by November 1, 2020. These metals include mercury and arsenic both of which are extremely toxic to humans and pose a serious threat to public health. Other metals like selenium and nutrients like nitrogen, are especially harmful to the aquatic life of the Chesapeake Bay and our communities.
GenOn Energy, the operator of the coal plants requesting the permit modifications, has a history of fighting against clean water regulations and failing to comply with them. In 2019, GenOn’s efforts to sue to block implementation of the updated toxic pollution requirements in its permits failed and last fall GenOn was cited by MDE for illegal storage and handling of coal ash at the Morgantown facility.
The Chair of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club Rosa Pinnola Hance released the following statement in response:
“This decision comes as a genuine relief for Marylanders living downstream of the coal plants. At a time when we are in the midst of a public health crisis, it is comforting that our state agencies are upholding measures to protect the health of our families and environment. It is sad to see GenOn continuing to fight against ensuring basic health & safety of our beloved waters.”
Leah Kelly, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, said:
“The EPA issued these new pollution limits in 2015 after a delay of over 30 years. Instead of investing in control technology to bring its plants into compliance, GenOn Energy has spent its resources filing unsuccessful appeals in court and otherwise trying to avoid its obligation to reduce its pollution. MDE is doing the right thing here and we applaud their proposed decisions.”
According to Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman:
“We’re sick and tired of splitting hairs through endless legal and permitting processes with GenOn over how much coal waste the public and the environment can tolerate and how much nature can withstand. These plants spew toxic poison for profit, and then want to foot drag toward more benign and sustainable sources of energy. This is an inevitable step toward reducing the burden of coal waste contamination for communities that have had way too much of it for far too long.”
Anne Havemann, general counsel with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said:
“Every day that GenOn tries to delay implementation of these common sense standards is another day that Marylanders are forced to live with arsenic, mercury, and selenium pollution in their water. We’re glad to see MDE put clean water and public health ahead of corporate delay and profits, especially during this public health crisis.”
Phillip Musegaas, Vice President of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, said:
“We commend Maryland regulators for taking a stand against corporate polluters’ self-interest and fighting for the rights of all Marylanders to have clean water in their rivers, free of toxic chemicals from coal-fired power plants. These eminently reasonable and achievable standards will lead to healthier rivers and communities freed from the threat of coal industry pollution in their backyards and drinking water.”
Daniel Willis (317) 493-9154, firstname.lastname@example.org