Retirements will Protect Public Health, Continue Maryland’s Transition to Clean Energy
Annapolis, Maryland–(ENEWSPF)–December 6, 2013. This week, NRG Energy signaled that it plans to retire the Chalk Point and Dickerson coal plants in May 2017. Chalk Point, located along the Patuxent River in Prince George’s County, and Dickerson, located in Montgomery County, are 2 of only 7 remaining coal plants in the state. Advocates cheered the decision stating that these retirements will protect public health and continue Maryland’s transition from dirty, outdated coal towards more clean energy. Now advocates are calling for NRG Energy, Governor O’Malley and the Maryland legislature, and all people who care about justice and fairness to ensure a responsible transition for affected workers.
“As Maryland invests in more clean energy, polluting coal plants like Chalk Point and Dickerson are now obsolete,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies which has contributed $50 million to Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Marylanders will benefit from the retirement of these two plants with cleaner air, lower healthcare costs, and less climate-disrupting pollution. What’s more, this officially marks 30% of all the nation’s coal plants announcing retirement since 2010. Make no mistake — coal is going away for good.”
“Passionate citizens from across the state have been the driving force in our fight to fundamentally change the way Maryland produces and consumes energy,” said Donna McDowell, a Montgomery County resident and a Sierra Club Maryland Board Member. “Maryland is simultaneously helping to lead the nation in new 21st-century clean energy investments like offshore wind while ensuring cleaner air for all and replacing dirty, outdated coal plants. Now, as Maryland continues to move beyond coal, the O’Malley Administration should continue to make significant new investments in the clean energy economy. Further, and equally important as we transition to a clean energy economy, NRG Energy has a responsibility to ensure a just and responsible transition for workers that protects their livelihoods.”
“After 11 years of pushing for landmark climate change and clean energy policies in the state of Maryland, we see the impact in the marketplace,” said Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Clean energy technologies are taking root and pushing dirty, prehistoric fossil fuels out of the way. CCAN is proud to claim victory and celebrate with the thousands of Maryland grassroots advocates, volunteers and supporters that have helped to phase out dirty coal-fired power from Maryland’s energy portfolio.”
Air pollution from the Chalk Point and Dickerson coal plants contributes to 42 deaths and 680 asthma attacks per year, according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force.
“The retirement of these plants will take significant amounts of harmful pollutants like fine particulates and sulfur dioxide out of Maryland’s air,” said Leah Kelly, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “This helps to pave the way for a cleaner energy portfolio in Maryland based on solar and wind power.”
In April, the Maryland General Assembly passed Governor Martin O’Malley’s historic Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, securing the future for the first offshore wind industry in Maryland. Meanwhile, through EmPOWER Maryland, the state will reduce energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. These initiatives will put Marylanders to work and provide clean energy for the state, all while further reducing Maryland’s dependence on polluting, outdated fossil fuels like coal that contribute to climate disruption. For Chalk Point and Dickerson coal plants, PJM Interconnection will now review NRG Energy’s retirement request to determine whether the plants can be reliably retired.
Finally, not only does the retirement of these facilities mean cleaner air in Maryland, but it also means cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Due to excess discharges of nutrients, the main pollutants plaguing the Bay, the Chalk Point and Dickerson coal plants have been in significant violation of their water pollution permits over the past several years. These violations led Food & Water Watch, Potomac Riverkeeper and Patuxent Riverkeeper – represented by the Columbia University School of Environmental Law Clinic – to file an action in federal court for violations of the Clean Water Act this past year. Currently, NRG Energy is in settlement negotiations with the groups and the Maryland Department of the Environment.