By Gunpowder Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance Organizer Malaika Elias
Gunpowder Riverkeeper has been asking for transparency regarding the Maryland coal-fired power plant for years; its proposed transition to burning natural gas has spurred further involvement from Blue Water Baltimore and community group Essex Middle River Civic Council
The C.P. Crane facility was a coal-fired electric generation power plant located within the tidal Gunpowder River in Baltimore County, Maryland. It operated for over 50 years, from 1961-2018, at times burning coal from as far away as the powder basin of Wyoming.
Now, the facility is in the process of a “repowering” project after the Maryland Department of the Environment finalized a settlement agreement to resolve alleged air pollution violations at the plant. The alleged violations included failing to conduct stack testing as required and exceeding emissions limits for particulate matter, hydrogen chloride, and carbon monoxide. The settlement agreement included a requirement that Crane stop operating its two coal-fired units by June 15, 2018, as well as a $105,000 penalty assessment. Now the plant is attempting to get approval to use natural gas instead of coal.
Part of the repowering process requires the facility to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). The purpose of the CPCN proceeding is for the PSC and its supporting agencies to examine a CPCN application and determine if the project is in the public good while also reviewing the environmental, ecological, socioeconomic, and land use impacts associated with construction and operation of the project. CP Crane applied for a CPCN on May 31, 2018.
When the CPCN proceeding was initiated, Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Blue Water Baltimore (home to Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper), and Essex Middle River Civic Council (EMRCC, an umbrella group representing 20 community associations in the vicinity of the C.P. Crane power plant) represented by the Environmental Action Center, intervened in the proceeding to increase public participation in the process, obtain more information, and review the environmental impacts of decommissioning the old plant and the construction and operation of the new natural gas facility.
So far, the intervenors have inquired and requested more information regarding the type of wastewater treatment, PCBs, coal pile and coal ash removal, public outreach, and the status of other state and county permits and approvals necessary to construct and operate this project. As of late February 2019, the majority of these permits have not been applied for, nor was the information available and reviewed by the PSC and its supporting agencies.
The facility is seeking approval of the repowering project by May 13, 2019, which will become effective 30 days later if not challenged. Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Blue Water Baltimore, and EMRCC’s goals of the intervention are as follows: enhance transparency in the CPCN process; review the provided environmental information and seek clarification where gaps are identified; ensure that the project is properly permitted; strive to increase the level of public notice and participation. Please join the Intervenors in ensuring the facility is properly permitted to prevent pollution by sharing your concerns at a public hearing on April 1.
Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Blue Water Baltimore, and EMRCC are asking that concerned members of the public make their voices heard. Details regarding a public hearing and written comments can be found below.
7pm, Monday, April 1, 2019
Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association
1124 Bowleys Quarters Road Baltimore, MD 21220.
Must be submitted by April 4, 2019, to the PSC at the following address:
Terry J. Romine, Executive Secretary,
Maryland Public Service Commission,
6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor,
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Reference “Case No. 9482.”
*Feature image by Gunpowder Riverkeeper