Communities in Maryland will be able to breathe easier before the end of the decade with AES Corporation’s announcement of its intent to retire the Warrior Run coal plant in June 2024. See the video and read more in the press release. This 23-year-old facility in Cumberland was the last remaining coal-fired power plant in the state without plans to cease operations. Maryland joins 14 other states that either no longer have operating coal plants or where all remaining coal plants in operation have committed to retirement. The coal-burning Brandon Shores Power Plant near Baltimore is slated for retirement in 2025.
Sierra Club is committed to moving Maryland off dirty sources of energy - gas, trash incineration, and especially coal - to clean renewable energy. Our Beyond Coal campaign has worked for over a decade to educate on the harms of coal, to hold polluters accountable, and to push policy makers to commit to transition off coal.
Currently, coal and gas generation comprise nearly two thirds of Maryland’s electricity generation, accounting for 21% of statewide emissions. Transitioning from dirty energy to clean renewable energy is one of the most promising ways to reduce Maryland’s greenhouse gas pollution and other harmful pollutants. This effort will require major changes to Maryland policy, including the removal of significant barriers, development of new statewide planning processes, and resources for Maryland agencies to take full responsibility to achieve this ambitious goal.
At the start of the Beyond Coal Campaign in 20210, Maryland was home to 8 coal plants. Now 13 years later — after advocacy and persistence from many across the state — Maryland is on track to be coal-free before the end of the decade. Exposure to particulate pollution from these eight plants caused an estimated 3,000 asthma attacks, 300 heart attacks, and nearly 200 premature deaths every year. As of today, five of those eight coal plants have since retired — and the last three will retire within the next few years.
The plants are:
- R. Paul Smith coal-fired power plant (ceased operation in 2012)
- C.P. Crane coal-fired power plant in Baltimore County (ceased operation in 2016, plant infrastructure was demolished in 2022, see video)
- Dickerson power plant in Montgomery County (eased operation in 2020)
- Chalk Point coal-fired power plant in Prince George’s County
- Morgantown coal-fired power plant in Charles County
- Warrior Run coal-fired power plant in Allegany County (announced plants to retire by June 2024)
- Brandon Shores and Herbert Wagner coal-fired power plants in Anne Arundel County (to retire by Dec 2025)
The announcement of the planned retirement of Warrior Run (late 2023) is a major milestone for Maryland on its path towards a clean energy future for Maryland.
What comes next on the road to 100% clean energy?
With the announcement of this final coal-plant retirement, the Beyond Coal campaign will focus its energy on pushing for a just transition for coal-communities and workers, and continuing to advocate for actions to help Maryland achieve its goal of a 100% clean energy by 2035.
The transitions away from coal must be just. Training and workforce development associated with the clean energy transition should be targeted toward Marylanders from underserved, overburdened, and frontline communities to provide economic opportunity and career pathways out of poverty for unemployed and underemployed residents. See more about this in a report (https://bit.ly/cpfinalrecs2023) by Climate Partners, a coalition in which Maryland Sierra Club is a proud member.
Maryland has made strong commitments to clean energy, but our progress has not kept pace. The state has committed to achieving 52.5% renewable energy but continues to list trash incineration and woody biomass as “clean”. The Moore Administration’s goal of achieving 100% clean energy generation by 2035 but has yet to release a specific plan. The state has adopted ambitious goals for solar energy and offshore wind, but there are challenges that must be overcome to achieve these goals.
Read about some of our latest efforts below.
- Maryland Commits To Being Coal-Free by 2025 with Announced Retirement of Warrior Run Plant (11/15/2023)
- Letter to Governor Moore regarding pending coal plant retirements (11/13/2023)
- Letter to PJM Interconnection President and Board regarding coal plant retirements (11/13/2023)
- Morgantown Coal Plant to Retire in 2022, Five Years Earlier Than Previously Announced (6/11/2021)
About the Campaign
Burning coal for electricity is a 19th-century technology that is dangerously heating our planet, changing our climate, and making our families and communities sick. Maryland cannot meet its climate action goals and transition to a clean energy economy while continuing to burn coal for power. In 2021, we need a plan to phase out our state’s coal-fired power plants and support the impacted workforce with a fossil fuel worker transition plan.
Across the country, nearly 300 coal plants have retired or announced retirement. In 2020, Maryland entered the year with six active dirty coal-fired plants and ended the year with five of the six plants that have either retired or have announced plans to retire.
In 2020, the bipartisan Maryland Commission on Climate Change recommended that the state transition off of all of its dirty coal plants by no later than 2030. The Commission, made up of scientists, union leaders, & business representatives also recommended that the state establish a coal transition plan to support impacted workers and communities.
Over 85% of Marylanders live in counties that do not meet EPA healthy air standards for smog pollution, and our coal plants are a major source of smog-forming pollution. Smog exacerbates respiratory problems like asthma, which disproportionately impacts children, the elderly, and communities of color in Maryland.
Maryland’s coal plants are a significant source of toxic water pollution. The state’s coal-burning power plants discharge toxic heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and selenium. Arsenic causes cancer; mercury impairs brain development in children; and selenium damages the nervous system.
Maryland already pledged itself to clean electricity generation. Under the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Maryland is committed to generating more than enough clean renewable electricity from in-state solar and offshore wind to replace the electricity from Maryland’s coal plants.