By: Daniel Willis, Sierra Club

New bill would phase out burning coal at MD’s 6 remaining coal-fired power plants and provide funds to impacted workers and communities 

Annapolis, MD. – This week, Chairman Kumar Barve (D-17) and Sen. Chris West (R-42) introduced landmark legislation in the Maryland State Senate and  Maryland House of Delegates. The bill responds to the nation-wide decline in coal and the climate crisis by establishing a timeline to phase out coal-burning at Maryland’s six polluting coal plants and supporting impacted workers with a coal community transition plan. This historic legislation would make Maryland a leader in the transition from dirty fossil fuels, like coal, to clean energy. Furthermore, the coal transition bill would deliver meaningful climate action supported by a majority of Maryland voters. A recent bipartisan poll commissioned by the Sierra Club found that 69% of Marylanders support setting a schedule for phasing out the state’s coal power plants. 

In 2019, Gov. Hogan’s administration released Maryland’s Draft Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan which found that providing a clear timeline for fossil fuel facility transitions and creating “worker training programs that facilitate the transfer of employees to new jobs” is a best practice for transitioning off dirty fossil fuels. The legislation from Delegate Barve and Senator West will implement these best practices already identified by the state. 

More than half of the country’s coal plants have retired or announced their retirement plans over the last decade, leaving many energy markets looking for a more reliable energy source and many workers looking for jobs. Maryland would join states like New York, New Mexico, and Washington in adopting coal transition legislation and other detailed transition plans that provide certainty for energy consumers, workers, and communities.

The legislation is designed to ensure coal workers and their families are not left behind in the shift to clean energy. The legislation will establish a coal community transition plan and account to better foster worker union- and industry- retraining, fill wage gaps, supplement retirement security, and support the tax-bases of affected communities. Importantly, the legislation assures that this account is governed by those that are most impacted by the closure of a coal plant and financed through a devoted and secure funding stream.

Delegate Kumar Barve (D17), Chairman of the House Environment and Transportation Committee, released the following statement:

The market has already demonstrated that the era of burning coal for energy has passed.  These plants are dying a slow death and dumping heavy pollution in Maryland’s air. The time is now to break free of coal and embrace cleaner resources while supporting the workers and communities as we do so.”

Senator West (D42) released the following statement:

“We face a significant threat from climate change that will only get worse with our continued reliance on dirty coal, and we are running out of time. The time for leadership and action is now. We have better ways to produce energy and the declining economics of coal are undeniable — our state can and must set a firm date to move off coal-fired electricity and we can do it while better supporting hard-working Marylanders.”

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Senior Campaign Representative David Smedick released the following statement in response: 

“Marylanders are on the front lines of the climate crisis. Our communities around the state are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events. For far too long we have failed to reconcile our reliance on dirty fossil fuels especially coal, which dumps toxic pollution into our communities and accounts for an overwhelming 75% of the climate pollution from the electricity sector in Maryland. Since 2010 over 300 coal plants have retired or announced their plans for retirement across the country. With the bipartisan work from Delegate Barve and Senator West, these bills will bring that national movement firmly into Maryland. This historic legislation will not only end coal burning at power plants in Maryland — it will also lay the foundation for a funded transition away from fossil fuels for workers and communities. This is the year for Maryland to move beyond coal.”

Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Lisa Brown released the following statement in response: 

“As the nation’s largest healthcare workers union, 1199SEIU members know that burning fossil fuels causes and worsens health problems like asthma. We also know that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live closer to pollution. Therefore, we support this bill because it will both improve community health, create good union jobs in the clean energy industry and provide a just transition for impacted workers.”

Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light  Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, released the following statement in response: 

“People of faith know that caring for our communities means transitioning away from coal as a power source. We know that this is essential for the health of our state, our climate, our neighbors, and ourselves. We work every day with faith communities all across Maryland who have devoted significant time and energy to installing solar power because they find it obscene to pray to a loving and just God in a space that is powered by an energy source that is making their neighbors sick. Faithful Marylanders know that a clean energy economy is our future, and our communities are depending on our elected officials to chart the path forward.”

Deputy Director for Maryland League of Conservation Voters Ramon Palencia-Calvo, released the following statement in response:

“Maryland is especially vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis and communities of color face the brunt of pollution from these outdated coal-fired power plants. Our state needs to be a leader in the clean energy economy with a transition for workers in this field and the communities hosting the facilities. This bill includes an equitable and just plan to move away from coal as the best path forward to solve the climate crisis and better serve frontline communities.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...