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Out with the Old
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by Laura Buzek | 2011

Out with the Old By Laura Buzek—The Maryland Sierra Club’s Moving Maryland Beyond Coal (MMBC) campaign is aiming to get several coal-fired power plants in the state phased out. We are targeting three plants in particular, because of their age, the high amount of pollution they release, the small amount of energy they produce, and their not having “scrubbers.”

Out with the Old

Moving Beyond Coal Begins with Three Old Polluting Plants

By Laura Buzek—The Maryland Sierra Club’s Moving Maryland Beyond Coal (MMBC) campaign is aiming to get several coal-fired power plants in the state phased out.  We are targeting three plants in particular, because of their age, the high amount of pollution they release, the small amount of energy they produce, and their not having “scrubbers.”

Scrubbers are devices installed in coal plant smoke stacks to remove pollutants from the exhaust released by the plant.  They catch ash and heavy metals, as well as dangerous gases, such as sulfur dioxide.  Scrubbers are, for the most part, the only devices available able to remove both particulate matter and gases, and, thus, they are very important  for pollution control. Scrubbers are now mandated for new plants built in the United States. However, the three plants MMBC is targeting are between 50 and 70 years old, and they are not required to have scrubbers.   These plants pollute “big time.”

 

R. Paul Smith

The R. Paul Smith coal-fired power plant is a small plant located in the beautiful town of Williamsport, Maryland.  It is owned by Allegheny Energy, Inc. and can produce up to 110 megawatts of electricity.  According to the E.P.A., it is a high priority violator.1 It releases excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.  Positioned right on the C&O Canal, the discharge from this plant goes into the Potomac River, and coal ash from the plant is transported to landfills in West Virginia. This plant was responsible for emitting 5000 tons of sulfur dioxide in 2008.2  In stark contrast, the Criterion Wind Project, located in western Maryland, emits no pollution and has a capacity of 70 megawatts.3  [Join us on a hike on the beautiful C&O Canal, and see the  R. Paul Smith plant for yourself. See page 16 or the outings schedule  for July 23.]

 

C. P. Crane     

MMBC is also focusing on the C.P. Crane coal-fired plant in Baltimore County on the Chesapeake Bay, near Hawthorn Cove.  Constellation Energy runs the plant, which produces about 416 megawatts of electricity.1 Discharge from the plant goes into Salt Peter Creek via Seneca Creek, and coal ash from the plant is transported to off-site landfills in Maryland and Virginia. The plant recently applied for permission to open a coal ash landfill in Baltimore County.  Fifty-nine deaths in the region annually have been attributed to “fine particulate matter” released from the C.P. Crane plant.4

 

Herbert A. Wagner

The third targeted coal-fired plant is the Herbert A. Wagner plant.  It is located in Pasadena, Maryland, where it discharges into the Patapsco River.  Constellation Energy also operates this plant, and its coal ash goes to off-site landfills in Maryland and Virginia. 

Coal processing at this plant creates 495 megawatts of electricity and releases 19,646 tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making it #48 on the list of the Environmental Integrity Project (a watchdog organization) of the dirtiest coal plants in America. 5 With over 600 coal plants6 in total in the U.S., the Wagner plant clocks in as one of the dirtiest. On top of that, 22 deaths in the region annually have been attributed to “fine particulate matter” emitted by the Herbert A. Wagner plant.4

           

Together, these three targeted plants produced 3.69 million megawatt hours of electricity a year (and release 45,000 tons of sulfur dioxide a year into the atmosphere), compared to the total 52.66 million megawatt hours used in the state of Maryland.1, 2 This amount of emissions is  unnecessary in light of available renewable energy technologies.  We hope you will join us as we work to move Maryland and our nation beyond coal. To get involved with our Maryland campaign, visit www.maryland.sierraclub.org.           n

 

Laura Buzek is a summer intern working with the Maryland Chapter on energy issues.  She is a student at the University of Maryland, pursuing degrees in environmental science and sociology, and she is a member of the Student Sierra Coalition.

 

Sources:

1. 3 Plant Fact Sheet. Source: Clean Air Markets, MDE Emissions Inventory, Sierra Club Database.

2. Maryland Power Plant Research program. Pg 2.1, 3.1.1 http://esm.versar.com/pprp/ceir15/toc.htm

3.Constellation Energy www.constellation.com/EnergyMatters/RenewableEnergy/CriterionWindProject/Pages/CriterionWindProject.aspx

4. Clean Air Task Force – Death and Disease from Power Plants http://www.catf.us/coal/problems/power_plants/existing/map.php?state=Maryland

5. Environmental Integrity Project. “Dirty Kilowatts 2007 Report Database” www.dirtykilowatts.org/Excel/DirtiestSO22007.xls

6. Source Watch Article “Existing U.S. Coal Plants”.  http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Existing_U.S._Coal_Plants

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