The Other Bombardment of Baltimore

IMG_0428 by Shan Gordon.
Just beyond the spot where Francis Scott Key wrote of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814 (stars and stripes marker on the bottom right) another bombardment continues, this one 24 hours a day, every day with white plumes of pollution instead of the rockets red glare. Pollution from coal fired power plants in Maryland has killed more people than the Battle of Baltimore. A lot more.

A recent study from MIT estimates that pollution from coal fired power plants kill 1885 people a year in Maryland. In Baltimore, the study estimates that we dig 475 early graves each year for those who succumb to pollution from coal plants. Oh, say, the number of Americans killed during the Battle of Baltimore? 28. So where is our song for the 475 who lose their fight against coal plant pollution every year? In a city where we are grieving 182 murders, these 475 silent deaths go unseen, with no sirens, no blue lights, no detectives searching for the culprits. The cause of death or hospitalization will be listed as pulmonary failure, stroke, asthma, heart attack. The smoke plumes waving in the distance are unquestioned. The costs of care and suffering falls upon those who are unable to withstand the pollution, not to those who created it.

Remember how states took cigarette companies to court to reclaim medical costs due to cancer? If King Tobacco was required to pay for the damage it wreaks, why are aging, highly polluting coal burning plants still polluting for free? Why are we choosing to give a competitive advantage to plants which don’t purchase and use pollution controls over ones that do? Or over renewable energy sources which don’t pollute? What kind of capitalism is that?

Sure we need to meet our energy needs, but subsidizing inefficient and highly polluting power plants with our health and environment is unethical and unproductive. Here are some better ideas:

The Maryland Public Service Commission recently set a goal of saving 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity per year. According to Mike Tidwell at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, meeting these goals would eliminated the need for a 460 megawatt coal fired power plant every two years.
Helping businesses and homeowners conserve energy enables us to reduce pollution while reducing energy bills for businesses and consumers.
Increasing renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and geothermal further reduce pollution while meeting our energy goals. Maryland needs to move quickly to escape it’s dependency on highly polluting coal fired power plants so we can improve the health of our citizens, our environment and our economy.

The Second Battle of Baltimore

posted in: Environment, News and Issues | 0

If you think that the only aerial bombardment of Baltimore was by the British navy in 1814, think again.

Gaze south of Ft. McHenry a few miles to near where the British ships fired their canons and rockets.
O say, can you see the plumes of pollution spewing from the smokestacks of the Brandon Shores and Wagner power plants?

In the dawn’s early light, look north past where the battle of North point took place to see if the cloud from the Crane power plant yet waves.

Year after year, day after day, hour by hour these plants pollute our air with toxic chemicals that fill our lungs, our emergency rooms and our cemeteries.

Four Americans died defending Ft. McHenry during the bombardment of 1814. We will probably never know just how many of us die prematurely, or struggle for                                                                                                    breath with asthma attacks triggered by this silent and constant poisoning of our air.

What we do know is that Baltimore has almost twice the asthma rate as the rest of the state.
We know that one in four of our children receive an asthma diagnosis by the time they are in high school.
We know that the Baltimore/DC area is rated 8th highest in the country for ozone (smog) by the American Lung Association.
(This is one time it’s not great to beat Philadelphia and Pittsburgh).

And now we know that much of this pollution could have been prevented is these plants had just kept using their pollution controls.

That’s right. Many of these coal burning power plants did not run their pollution controls most of the time.
In a report titled “The History of Power Plant Controls in Maryland,” the Maryland Department of the Environment found that Unit 2 at the Wagner plant used its SNCR 28% of the time                                                          that they could have during 2012; Unit 1 at the Crane plant operated its SNCR 14 % of the time; while unit 2 at Crane operated its SNCR a third of the time that it could have.

Know anyone who breathes a third of the time?

The report found that if the Brandon Shores and Wagner plants had used their pollution controls continuously during 2012they would have reduced NOx emissions by 2,016 tons.
Now I don’t know what you think about dog walkers who don’t pick up after their dog, but the owners of these plants left a 2,016 ton pile of toxic chemicals in the air that we can’t walk around.                                   We breathe this stuff.

So when the owners of the power plants start whimpering about the cost of installing pollution controls or switching to less polluting fuels at their plants, I hope our leaders also hear the gasping of children with asthma attacks and the sirens of ambulances taking people to emergency rooms.

Why should we continue to subsidize the owners of dirty coal burning plants with our air and the health of our families? Why should dirty, polluting plants gain a price advantage over cleaner plants and energy sources? Why do they get free dumping rights to our air?

It is time that we tell the owners of dirty old coal burning plants that poison our air to boost their profits: NEVERMORE.

Please urge the Maryland Department of the Environment to adopt regulations that help make our air cleaner and our families healthier.

Interviews with Protestors of Energy Answers Incinerator

Interviews with Destiny Watford, graduate of Benjamin Frankin High School, Charles Graham, student at Benjamin Franklin High School and Mike Ewall, Director of Energy Justice Network at the protest march against the planned Energy Answers Incinerator on a site one mile from the High School. Students said that the plant would add pollution to their industrial neighborhood which is already one of the most polluted areas in the country.

Protest March Against Energy Answers Incinerator

Students at Benjamin Franklin High School lead protest of the Energy Answers Incinerator planned for construction at a site a mile from the school. Students fear that the incinerator will bring waste including car parts and car tires from other other states and will add lead, mercury and fine particulate pollution to their neighborhood that already ranks as one of the most polluted areas in the country.

Burning Issues – Curtis Bay, Maryland

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Testimony on whether the Public Service Commission should allow the largest incinerator in the nation to be built at Curtis Bay, Maryland. The plans call for trucking in 4,000 tons of garbage a day to the plant which would be located within a mile of two schools.