Sierra Club hits Maryland governor over coal-friendly ’emergency’ regulation

The Sierra Club on April 17 slammed a move by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to file “emergency” regulations that the club says eliminate critical health protections intended to clean up NOx pollution from coal plants in Maryland.  

In response, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Director Josh Tulkin said: “We are deeply troubled by the Governor’s use of emergency rulemaking authority to cripple crucial health protections that were already finalized and in place before he ever took office. This is an ’emergency’ of the Governor’s own making, siding with a polluting energy company headquartered outside of Maryland rather than thousands of his own constituents concerned about their air quality. The protections put in place by the previous administration would have ensured that every polluting coal plant had to install and operate the most effective technology to reduce harmful pollution. That’s what officials from Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, the Maryland State Medical Society, and nearly 9,000 Maryland citizens have called for, and what residents need. Governor Hogan needs to immediately move forward with reinstating the full safeguards necessary to protect Marylanders’ right to clean air.”

Hogan, a Republican, was elected this past November to replace Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. The NOX-control program in question was begun in the late days of the O’Malley Administration.

The club’s allusion to a “company” based outside of Maryland is misleading, in that the coal-fired power plants in the state are controlled by three companies, all based outside of Maryland. The affected coal units and their controlling companies are:

  • Brandon Shores Units 1 and 2, RJS Power, with these units to go to Talen Energy as part of an upcoming IPO;
  • C.P. Crane Units 1 and 2, also RJS Power and eventually Talen Energy;
  • Chalk Point Units 1 and 2, NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG);
  • Dickerson Units 1, 2, and 3, NRG Energy;
  • H.A. Wagner Units 2 and 3, also RJS Power and eventually Talen Energy;
  • Morgantown Units 1 and 2, NRG Energy; and
  • Warrior Run, AES Corp. (NYSE: AES).

Said NRG’s Feb. 27 annual Form 10-K report about this situation: “In October 2014, the [Maryland Department of the Environment] released a draft of a proposed regulation regarding NOx emissions from coal-fired electric generating units. The MDE draft regulation was proposed in the Maryland Register in December 2014. If finalized as proposed, the regulation would require by June 2020 the Company (at each of the three Dickerson coal-fired units and the Chalk Point coal-fired unit that does not have [selective catalytic reduction]) to (1) install and operate an SCR; (2) retire the unit; or (3) convert the fuel source from coal to natural gas. The implementation of the MDE regulation could negatively affect certain of the Company’s coal-fired units in Maryland.”

The NRG Form 10-K added: “On November 29, 2013, NRG submitted a notice of deactivation [to PJM Interconnection] to retire Chalk Point Units 1 and 2, and Dickerson Units 1, 2, and 3 on May 31, 2017. The deactivation is based on draft environmental regulations that, if adopted, could require uneconomic capital investment and render the units uneconomic to operate going forward.”

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.