Kayak Rally Kicks Off Campaign to Retire Dirty Baltimore Coal Plants
The Maryland Sierra Club has kicked off a renewed effort to move the state off coal by calling for the retirement of two coal-burning power plants near Baltimore: the Charles P. Crane plant in Baltimore County and the Herbert Wagner plant in Anne Arundel County.
Last month the Club launched a letter-writing campaign to Governor Martin O'Malley, urging that he phase out the aging plants. O'Malley has pledged his support for the development of alternative energy in the state, including wind turbines off Maryland's coast.
On August 11, Club activists kayaked out to the Crane plant (above), a four-mile round trip, to get a good look at the polluting facility on Dundee Creek, about 15 miles from downtown Baltimore. Once there, they made a floating billboard spelling out the word RETIRE with the plant's smokestacks as a backdrop.
Maryland Chapter Coordinator Laurel Imlay and her 9-year-old son Rowan (below at far right) participated in the floating rally. "It takes each person doing something to make change," she told the Baltimore Sun. "Once you have kids, you realize you're leaving this planet for your children and you have to do whatever you can to take care of it." The rally also garnered media coverage in the Annapolis Capital-Gazette.
Both Baltimore and Anne Arrundel Counties suffer from failing air quality with dangerously high levels of soot and smog pollution. The non-profit Clean Air Task Force estimates that pollution from the Crane and Wagner plants contributes to more than 1,300 asthma attacks each year.
"These dirty plants have been contributing to bad air quality in Baltimore for decades," said Maryland Sierra Club organizer Chris Hill, below, who took the lead in pulling together the kayak rally. "Pollution from these plants is making our kids sick, causing asthma attacks, and contributing to heart disease, strokes, and cancer."
The kayak rally was triggered by an announcement that three Maryland coal plants, including Crane and Wagner, had been sold to private equity firm Riverstone Holdings. The sale price of $400 million was well under their anticipated value, reflecting the fact that the plants are in need of extensive and expensive upgrades to limit dangerous sulfur dioxide pollution.
"These plants are operating with equipment that's more than 50 years old," said Steve Satzberg, conservation chair for the Club's Anne Arundel Group. (That's Satzberg holding up the first "R" in RETIRE, below, with chapter Outings intern Danielle Seeley holding up the "I".) "It's time to retire these outdated plants that are polluting our air and threatening our health. We need to transition Maryland to clean energy sources like wind and solar that will clean up our air and bring thousands of new jobs to the state."
Below at left, Maryland Chapter outings chair Jan Hoffmaster briefs the kayakers at the put-in point, flanked by Club members Norman and Andrew Graham-Yooll; at right, chapter director Josh Tulkin, with Howard County Group chair Ken Clark in the background.
The Maryland Sierra Club has been working for more than two years to promote the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, which would jumpstart an offshore wind industry that is expected to create thousands of clean energy jobs and provide a huge share of Maryland's power in the decades to come. The Act passed the state House of Delegates overwhelmingly earlier this year, but stalled in Senate committee. Offshore wind advocates remain confident the Act will pass in the legislature's next session.
Above and below, a rally the Sierra Club helped organize this April in Annapolis, the state capital, to promote the bill.
Meanwhile, the Club has targeted three of the dirtiest coal plants in the state, including Crane and Wagner, for retirement, due to their age, inefficiency, the high amount of pollution they release, and the relatively small amount of energy they produce.
"We don't know much about Riverstone Holdings, but we do know it's time to retire both the Crane and Wagner plants and ensure a responsible transition for the workers," Hill said. "Baltimore communities deserve better than toxic air and we're going to make sure the new owners understand that."