Sierra Club pressures Riverstone to shut two Maryland coal plants

The Sierra Club on Oct. 9 released a report and said it has launched a public pressure campaign to force air emissions reductions from the coal-fired C.P. Crane and Herbert A. Wagner power plants located near Baltimore, Md.

The club said the report demonstrates that Crane and Wagner threaten the region with SO2 pollution at levels more than four times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed safe. The two coal plants’ state permits currently allow them to emit quantities of SO2 that could violate the EPA’s new National Ambient Air Quality Standard, the club said.

“We’re very concerned about the impacts of this dangerous pollution from the Crane and Wagner coal plants – particularly on the more than 35,000 kids already suffering from asthma in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. It’s time to retire these outdated and dirty plants so that our kids can breathe easier,” said Chris Hill, Conservation Representative with the Maryland Sierra Club.

“It’s a real concern when you see that schools and playgrounds, and even Camden Yards and the Ravens Stadium, are all located within these plumes,” said Rebecca Ruggles, Coordinator of the Maryland Environmental Health Network. “The Maryland Environmental Health Network has been looking at air pollution issues because we think not enough health professionals are aware of the dangers. I hope these maps will be a resource for health care providers as well as residents.”

A billboard located off Interstate-95 in Baltimore and new online ads ask the plants’ presumptive new owner, Riverstone Holdings LLC, if it has “Buyer’s Remorse Yet?” and features a picture of a child suffering from asthma with a call to retire the coal plants.

As part of the plant sale process the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) can choose to review the plants’ permits before they are transferred and reduce the allowed pollution levels to meet the EPA’s standards, the club said. “Maryland has a great opportunity to do the right thing and fix these out of date permits that put our families at risk. MDE needs to ratchet down the pollution limits for the Crane and Wagner coal plants now, before they’re transferred to the new owners,” said Chris Yoder, Maryland Sierra Club Greater Baltimore Group Chair.

Exelon says these plants comply with the state Healthy Air Act

Exelon (NYSE: EXC), the current plant owner, said Aug. 9 that it has reached an agreement to sell its three Maryland coal-fired plants to Raven Power Holdings LLC, a new portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings. This deal fulfills Exelon’s commitment to regulators to divest the plants, for regional market power mitigation reasons, as part of its merger with Constellation Energy.

The three plants, known collectively as “Maryland Clean Coal,” are:

  • Brandon Shores, Pasadena, Md., 1,273 MW of installed capacity, two units (coal);
  • C.P. Crane, Middle River, Md., 399 MW installed capacity, three units (coal and oil); and
  • H.A. Wagner, Pasadena, Md., 976 MW installed capacity, five units (coal, natural gas and oil).

Raven Power will pay about $400m for the plants and related assets, subject to several closing adjustments. The transaction, which is subject to approval by FERC and the U.S. Department of Justice, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Since 2008, the three plants have undergone major environmental upgrades, including investment in a new scrubber at Brandon Shores that makes it one of the cleanest coal plants in the nation, Exelon noted. The plants comply with the Maryland Healthy Air Act and are well positioned to meet pending EPA emissions standards, Exelon said.

“Coal burning plants like Charles P. Crane and Herbert A. Wagner are the largest sources of dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation,” claimed the Sierra Club report. “In fact, Crane and Wagner are the last two large coal burning plants in the Mid-Atlantic still without a plan to either install modern pollution safeguards, commonly known as ‘scrubbers’, or a commitment to retire their coal units. Scrubbers help cut a plant’s dangerous air pollutants including sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter, but don’t reduce pollution entirely.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.