Maryland and coal

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Maryland coal mines produced 5.1 million tons of coal in 2006 (0.4% of the U.S. total), making Maryland the 17th-biggest coal-producing state in the country.[1] Maryland employed 473 coal miners in 2006, of whom none were unionized.[2]

Maryland had 18 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 5,236 MW of capacity, representing 39.1% of the state's total electric generating capacity; Maryland ranks 25th out of the 50 states in terms of coal-fired electric generating capacity.[3] In 2006, Maryland's coal-fired power plants produced 28.0 million tons of CO2, 256,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 47,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for over 38% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[4] In 2005, Maryland emitted 14.1 tons of CO2 per person, about 60% less than the U.S. average.[5]


Coal mining began in Maryland in the 1780's, but it wasn't until the opening of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1842, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1850, that coal production became economically important in the state. In 1865, annual coal production hit 1 million tons; in 1895, it reached 4 million tons; in 1907, production peaked at 5.5 million tons. In Maryland - in stark contrast to other states - coal miners were relatively well-paid, mining was far less dangerous (there have only been a total of three coal mining disasters in the state's history, with 26 miners killed), and management was far less repressive (partly because, for decades, the predominantly Anglo-Saxon workforce refused to unionize - only in 1933 was coal miner unionization successful in the state).[6][7][8]

After 1920, coal mining declined sharply in Maryland, mostly due to the replacement of coal by petroleum and, later, to the Great Depression. By the early 1930's, coal production had shrunk to about 1.5 million tons per year; in the early 1950's, annual production hit a low of around 500,000 tons. In subsequent decades, however, coal-fired power plant construction revitalized the industry. Annual coal production hit 2 million tons by the early 1970's; 3.5 million tons were produced in 1990, and 5.1 million tons in 2006.[6]

The coal power industry is quite strong in Maryland: new coal-fired power plants have been built in Maryland more or less continuously since the mid-1950's, and two new coal generating stations were completed in 1991 and 2000.

4,000 gallons of sludge spill at NewPage mill

In March 2009, a 4,000-gallon spill of coal ash sludge spilled in Luke, Maryland, but did not seem to have reached the Potomac River. Most of the sludge spilled onto the West Virginia river bank, about 210 miles upstream from Washington, D.C. The sludge caused some discoloration of the river, but there were no signs of harm to fish or drinking water supplies. NewPage Corp., a paper manufacturer that owns the ash pipeline, had five days to tell the Maryland Department of the Environment how it would prevent future spills. The agency may fine the company.[9]

Lawsuit over dry ash disposal site in Maryland

On November 19, 2009, environmental groups filed a notice-of-intent-to-sue against Mirant Mid-Atlantic LLC and Mirant Maryland Ash Management LLC. The groups, including the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and others, allege Clean Water Act violations at the Brandywine Coal Combustion Waste Landfill in Prince George’s County, MD. The landfill does not use liners to prevent the coal waste from leaching into groundwater, and activists say an expected hazardous designation from EPA would require such liners and other means to prevent water contamination. The notice-of-intent against Mirant charges the company with "illegally discharging toxic pollutants into Mataponi Creek" through landfill leaching and violating the conditions of its permit, actions which have "injured, and will continue to injure, the health, environmental, aesthetic and economic interest of the plaintiffs." According to Jennifer Peterson of EIP, "The TVA spill dramatized the devastation that is caused when coal waste surface impoundments burst their banks. But slow motion toxic leaks and discharges from so-called 'dry' landfills also pose unacceptable risks to the environment and public health." Environmentalists suggest the new suit may lead to more lawsuits, especially if EPA classifies coal waste disposed in landfills as non-hazardous. New EPA regulations regarding coal ash disposal are expected by the end of 2009.[10]

Legislative issues

May 2010: Montgomery County passes carbon tax

In May, 2010, Montgomery County, Maryland enacted one of the country's first carbon taxes. Passed by a vote of 8-to-1, the tax applies to stationary emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) releasing more than one million tons annually into the atmosphere. This means only one source in the county will feel the pinch, the 850 MW coal power plant Dickerson Generating Station, located 40 miles from Washington DC, and owned by the Mirant Corporation. Though Mirant has lobbied for at least two years against any federal action on carbon emissions and has claimed that the carbon tax will mean rate increases for consumers, the local utility Pepco says it will not have a major effect on electricity rates. At least half of the expected $15 million revenue from the $5/ton tax will go fund county-level energy efficiency programs.[11]

March 2011: O'Malley tries for 3rd straight year to repeal mined coal credit

In March 2011, Maryland Governor Martin O'Mallley made his third annual proposed state budget to end the Maryland Mined Coal Credit, which is scheduled to expire in 2020. For fiscal 2013, its repeal would save the State of Maryland $4.5 million and about another $30 million more over the next seven years. Maryland utilities can deduct $3 per ton of coal that they purchase from mines located within the state. In March 2009, the O'Malley Administration made a deal with Maryland legislators to cut this subsidy in half. [12]

Proposed coal plants



Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

  • Constellation Energy
    • Headquarters in Baltimore, MD
    • 36th biggest coal energy company in U.S.
    • Controls 8 coal-fired generating stations with 2491 MW total capacity
  • Mirant

Existing coal plants

Maryland had 18 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 5,236 MW of capacity - representing 39.1% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[3][13]

Here is a list of coal power plants in Maryland with capacity over 400 MW:[3][14][15]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Brandon Shores Anne Arundel Constellation Energy 1984, 1991 1370 MW 7,929,000 tons 40,467 tons 92
Morgantown Charles Mirant 1970, 1971 1252 MW 6,209,000 tons 98,073 tons 9
Chalk Point Prince George Mirant 1964, 1965 728 MW 6,624,000 tons 49,591 tons 24
Dickerson Montgomery Mirant 1959, 1960, 1962 588 MW 3,357,000 tons 35,954 tons 19
Herbert A. Wagner Anne Arundel Constellation Energy 1959, 1966 495 MW 3,673,000 tons 19,646 tons 48
Crane Baltimore Constellation Energy 1961, 1963 400 MW 2,155,000 tons 28,744 tons N/A

These 6 plants represent 92.3% of Maryland's coal energy generating capacity, 38.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions, and 91.2% of its total SO2 emissions.[5]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Major coal mines

There are no major coal mines in Maryland.[16]

As of 2010 there were approximately 22 active coal mines in Indiana with production of approximately 2,585 short tons per year.[17]

According to a December 2010 article in the Baltimore Sun, while Maryland's overall coal production fell from 2000 to 2009, the number of surface mines in the state grew from 12 in 2001 to 20 in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. John Carey, chief of the Maryland Bureau of Mines, estimates that there are actually more than 30 active surface mines and two underground mines. A new mine being developed near Grantsville, the Casselman Mine, would tunnel under the Casselman River. The river is home to two of the state's endangered species, a large salamander called hellbender, and a fish, the stone cat.[18]

Hundreds of landowners have also signed leases or sold outright the mineral rights beneath their property, particularly within the Marcellus Shale.[18]

Coal terminals

In 2010 coal exports at the Port of Baltimore were nearly three times that of 2009 levels, due to "favorable exchange rates and increasing demand from Asian countries," according to the Baltimore Business Journal. The port’s two main coal terminals — CNX Marine Terminal in Dundalk and CSX’s Curtis Bay railyard — handled about 9 million tons of coal in 2010 through September, compared with 3.8 million tons at the same point of 2009.[19]

In the second quarter of 2010, U.S. coal exports to Asia grew nearly five times over 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Exports over the period were 5.1 million tons, up from 1.1 million tons in the second quarter of 2009. Overall, the U.S. exported 22 million tons of coal in the second quarter, up from 13 million tons in the second quarter of 2009. Tonnage in Baltimore ranks among the highest in the U.S., behind mid-Atlantic Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk handled about 25 million tons in 2010.[19]

Drinking water contamination in Gambrills, MD

In November 2007, a group of Gambrills residents living near a former sand and gravel mine filed a class action lawsuit against Constellation Energy over contamination of their drinking water. For twelve years prior, Constellation had dumped billions of tons of waste ash from its Brandone Shores coal-fired power plant into an unlined mine pit. County tests found that 23 wells in the area had been contaminated with metals such as arsenic, cadmium and thallium, all components fly ash.[20]

In October 2008, the group reached a settlement with Constellation. Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance approved the estimated $54 million settlement in December 2008. The settlement requires that Constellation connect 84 households to public water, create two trust funds to compensate affected property owners, restore the former quarry site, and cease all future deliveries of coal ash to the site.[21]

Citizen groups

Non-violent direct action

Nov. 10, 2004: Chesapeake Climate Action Network blockade of Dickerson Power Plant

On November 10, 2004, a group of Chesapeake Climate Action Network activists, students, farmers, and religious officials held a protest against the coal-fired Dickerson Power Plant in Montgomery County, Maryland. During the protest, six people were arrested for blocking the entrance road to the plant. The protestors called on the plant's owner, the Mirant Corporation, to stop opposing state and federal legislation against power plant pollution.[22]



  1. Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  2. Average Number of Employees by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "EIA" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Estimated Emissions for U.S. Electric Power Industry by State, 1990-2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Maryland Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed June 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, pp. 51-8. - cached copy at
  7. O'Donnell, L.A., The Best-Dressed Miners (book review), Industrial and Labor Relations Review 23 (4) (1970): pp. 607-609.
  8. Coal Mining Disasters, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, accessed June 2008.
  9. "Potomac River mostly spared from 4,000 gallon of coal ash that spilled from Md. paper mill," Associated Press, March 10, 2009.
  10. "Activists Target 'Dry' Coal Ash Disposal In Bid For Hazardous Waste Rule," Inside EPA, November 24, 2009. (Subscription required)
  11. Matthew McDermott, "Not Waiting For the Feds, Carbon Tax Enacted by Montgomery County, Maryland" Treehugger, May 20, 2010.
  12. David Saleh Rauf, [ "O'Malley pitted against coal industry, Western Maryland" The Daily Record, March 16, 2011.
  13. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  14. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  15. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  16. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  17. "Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2010" U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2010.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Timothy B. Wheeler, "Western Maryland wrestles with energy future" The Baltimore Sun, Dec. 13, 2010.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Coal shipments fueling business at Port of Baltimore" Baltimore Business Journal, Nov. 5, 2010.
  20. "Constellation, Gambrills residents settle fly-ash suit," Baltimore Sun, November 1, 2008.
  21. "$54 Million: Maryland Fly Ash, Class Action Settlement Wins Court Approval: A Milestone in Maryland Environmental and Legal History," World-Wire, December 31, 2008.
  22. Demonstrators Decry Mirant Corporation for Ignoring Public Health and Global Warming, Chesapeake Climate Action Network press release, November 10, 2004.


Existing coal plants in Maryland

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