ANNAPOLIS, MD – Late Friday night, GenOn Holdings, Inc. announced the retirement of the company’s Morgantown coal-fired power plant located in Charles County, MD on the Potomac River. The company will deactivate the coal plant in 2027. Prior to Friday’s announcement, the 50-year old Morgantown plant was the largest coal-fired power plant in Maryland without plans to cease operating. Further, GenOn announced their support for state legislation in 2021 that will codify a state-wide movement beyond coal at Maryland power plants and establish new support programs for impacted workers and communities.
For half a century working families in Charles County were made to bear the economic, environmental, and public health costs of living next to a toxic polluting coal plant. The plant continues to be a significant source of toxic water pollution discharging toxic heavy metals that can cause cancer, impair brain development in children, and harm the nervous system. Additionally, the plant is a major contributor to smog-forming pollution which exacerbates respiratory ailments and disproportionately impacts children, the elderly, and communities of color. In the past, the plant’s pollution was so severe the NAACP gave Morgantown a D+ for Environmental Justice.
Coal is rapidly declining in today’s energy market because archaic dirty fuels have been unable to compete with more affordable and cleaner renewable energy resources. The industry’s decline has been further expedited by the pressing need to address the global threat of the climate crisis and public health. Over half of the country’s coal plants have retired or announced their retirement plans over the last decade. Maryland entered 2020 with six active coal-fired plants and now five of the six plants have either retired or have announced plans to retire.
It’s imperative that leaders in Annapolis pass the “Coal Community Transition Act of 2021” to establish a coal transition plan with a timeline for retirements and that provides meaningful resources to impacted workers and communities as they face the industry’s precipitous decline. The workers at the GenOn Morgantown facility are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), local 1900.
Statements from Senator West and Delegate Brooks are available here.
The Senior Campaign Representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign David Smedick released the following statement in response
“Friday’s announcement is a big step for environmental and community activists who for decades fought against the toxic air and water pollution the Morgantown plant generated. The coal industry’s inevitable decline is here and Maryland must urgently transition to affordable clean energy resources like solar and wind in order to stave off some of the devastating effects of climate change. In the coming years, we will keep working to hold GenOn accountable for its pollution from the Morgantown facility while pushing for more local investment in clean energy solutions. GenOn’s support for coal transition legislation in 2021 creates important momentum leading into an unprecedented Maryland legislative session. Maryland’s General Assembly leaders and Governor Hogan must take swift action by passing the “Coal Community Transition Act of 2021” to establish a timely transition plan off coal and to clean energy that supports our communities and promotes good union jobs for impacted workers.”
Chispa Maryland Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo released the following statement:
“The Morgantown plant closing is good news, but too many communities in Maryland are still suffering unnecessarily from pollution during these uncertain economic times. The state must accelerate an equitable, enforceable transition plan that moves Maryland off coal and towards a clean energy economy that prioritizes our workers and communities.”
Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), released the following statement:
“People of faith know that caring for our communities means transitioning away from coal as a power source. We see the closing of the Morgantown plant and all of Maryland’s coal plants as essential for the health of our state, our climate, our neighbors, and ourselves.
“We call on our elected officials to provide funding for a just transition—a transition that ensures both clean air and good union jobs for all of our communities. 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.”
Charles County Board of Commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II, released the following statement:
“Being ahead of the curve as the county prepares for the eventual closing of the Morgantown Plant will provide measurable dividends for our citizens. We want to be at the table when a “just transition” plan is adopted to ensure that the lost revenue (commercial tax dollars in excess of $8.5 million) will be replaced with a plan to retrain the present workforce, and focus on renewable energy alternatives. Passage of this legislation in Annapolis will be a win-win for our citizens, closing out the hazardous emissions from a coal plant to a transition to energy that is renewable. This will potentially reap economic development benefits for the future.”
Phillip Musegaas, Vice President Programs and Litigation, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, released the following statement:
“Potomac Riverkeeper supports GenOn’s decision to close Morgantown’s coal fired units, with the expectation that the company will conduct a full cleanup of coal pollution at the site as part of its plan,” said Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper. “Morgantown has a troubled history of polluting Pasquehanza Creek and the Potomac River with coal waste that must be addressed, and we will continue to hold GenOn accountable for any pollution problems at the site.”
Maryland Sierra Club Executive Committee Member, Teresa Ball, released the following statement in response
“GenOn’s announcement to discontinue coal operations at Morgantown is a critical step in easing the massive pollution burden in Charles County and in moving Maryland beyond coal. However, this announcement is only the start of a conversation regarding a transition plan for our County, community, and workers.”