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Scene from the River: Experiencing the Beyond Coal Outing
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by Andrew Graham-Yooll | 2012

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon I find myself strolling the banks of the Gunpowder River in the Gunpowder Falls State Park east of Baltimore, trying to spot different birds including ospreys and bald eagles—as I eventually do. After filling out the usual disclosure forms for renting a boat, I don a life vest and grab a paddle. Now we are ready.

Scene from the River: Experiencing the Beyond Coal Outing

 

By Andrew Graham-Yooll—On a beautiful Sunday afternoon I find myself strolling the banks of the Gunpowder River in the Gunpowder Falls State Park east of Baltimore, trying to spot different birds including ospreys and bald eagles—as I eventually do. After filling out the usual disclosure forms for renting a boat, I don a life vest and grab a paddle. Now we are ready.

The group of about 20 members, volunteers, and staff, lines up to be briefed about what kind of journey we are going to embark on. We are told that somewhere out there is a toxic coal-fired power plant, C.P. Crane, that spews sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere, with a staggering amount ending up in the lungs of kids in the inner city, causing asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and a few other things you do not ever want. And we are about to stand in the shadow of this beastly dinosaur. 

Following a few interviews and photo opportunities with the Baltimore Sun, we hop into our brightly colored kayaks and start following our Sierra Club Outings Leaders, Jan Hoffmaster and Ken Clark. Since I have never been in a kayak before, it takes a bit of getting used to, but quickly I master all the skills needed to transport myself safely from the shore to the plant. 

After about twenty minutes of paddling, I stop. Something catches my eye. How could I not have seen it? Even from a mile away, I can tell it is gigantic. Peering over the horizon like a man with two arms propped up against the earth, the smoke stacks, with their bright orange and white striped columns would stand out to anyone. It does not belong here. It is the antithesis of everything else that I can see: trees, birds, a complex natural ecosystem of animals and plants. It just juts out of the earth like a tumor. This is C.P Crane.

As we paddle up to a different vantage point where we can make out almost the entire structure of this monstrosity, we huddle together for a lecture on why this is a place that the Sierra Club is fighting to close down.

As of August 9, 2012, Riverstone Holdings LLC , purchased C.P Crane, along with two other power plants, H.A. Wagner and Brandon Shores. Out of these three power plants, C.P. Crane and H.A. Wagner are failing to meet the compliance standards. This leads to the dangerously high levels of smog and soot pollution which cause countless lives to be negatively affected. The only way to meet the compliance standards would be to invest in pollution-control technologies, which will cost millions of dollars, that needless to say, would be poured into a dying industry. 

The Sierra Club has taken a firm stance on the need for another solution—healthier, cleaner and longer lasting energy sources, like wind, solar and individual efficiency. Not only does it transition us into a 21st century way of creating energy that does not put kids in the hospital, but it also is a way to create the framework for a strong economy in the future that does not rely on a fading energy source.

As we start to head back to the shore, I question our energy sources. I think about how coal is a limited resource and that we should not take it for granted. I think about how dirty coal is and how we can do better for our children. I think about how the mountains are being blown up in Appalachia for coal to be used in plants like Wagner. We should start thinking about other ways to power our lifestyles. It’s time to put coal behind us, and as I paddle back to shore, I know I have.

 

Andrew Graham-Yoole is a Sierra Club volunteer.

> 2012 Table of Contents

   
   

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