Sudden announcement underscores need for state-led action on economic transition of Maryland’s remaining coal plants

News Release, Serra Club

Montgomery County, MD –  Late last week, GenOn Holdings announced the scheduled deactivation of the Dickerson coal-fired power plant in August of this year. GenOn’s decision provides only 90 days notice to impacted workers and communities at a time when tens of thousands of Marylanders are dealing with unemployment challenges and counties are making tough budgetary decisions. The 60-year old Dickerson plant is one of six large plants in Maryland still burning coal and facing the declining economics of fossil fuels.   

The coal industry is in steep decline in today’s energy market because outdated dirty fuels have been unable to compete with less costly and cleaner renewable energy resources and has been expedited by the urgent need to address the serious threat of the climate crisis and public health. In 2019, Maryland’s six coal plants generated less than 10% of the electricity sold in the state but emitted over half of the climate-disrupting carbon dioxide from in-state power plants. 

However, Marylanders in Prince George and Charles Counties will still have to contend with the serious pollution GenOn coal plants produce. The Chalk Point and Morgantown coal-fired power plants have faced a sharp decline in operation, highlighting the continuing downward economic pressure on coal, but their operations still harm Maryland’s air, water, and health. GenOn, the out-of-state operator of these coal plants has a history of failing to comply with environmental regulations and fighting against clean water protections.

The precipitous decline of the coal industry and the grave threat of climate change demand Maryland have a plan in place to support impacted communities and workers and provide them with the resources they need. 

The Chair of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club Rosa Hance released the following statement in response

“With this announcement, it’s clear that Maryland is moving beyond dirty expensive coal and toward affordable clean energy. However, it is also a reminder of the devastating reality that faces frontline communities and workers in the industry that they could lose their jobs and tax revenue with just 90 days notice. That is unacceptable to families who will now be faced with finding good family-supporting jobs in an economic crisis. That’s why, in this past legislative session, the Sierra Club supported a coal transition bill to phase out Maryland’s dirty coal plants and provide badly needed resources to impacted workers. Such a plan is urgently needed, now more than ever. 

We’re calling on Maryland’s leaders in Annapolis and Governor Hogan, to launch a coal transition workgroup to chart a managed transition away from coal that supports workers and communities. We can either have a managed and state-supported just transition for coal plants in Maryland or subject impacted workers and communities to random and uncertain closures.  Working families and Marylanders deserve better.”. 

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

“In the midst of economic upheaval brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland has witnessed unprecedented workforce layoffs and economic stress. Many sectors of the economy have faced downward pressure and the coal industry was already in steep decline before the pandemic hit. This leaves coal plant workers and frontline communities especially vulnerable not only to health risks that come with sustained exposure to air pollution but also to the economic devastation occurring across the country. 

At this time Maryland currently lacks a state-wide, centralized plan to manage the transition off of coal, but there is still time to act. We need our public officials to bring together community members, workers, advocates, and industry leaders and build together a pathway forward that moves the state beyond coal but also supports our most impacted workers and 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...