RESIDENTS IN PRINCE GEORGE’S BATTLE POWER PLANT SITING

Residents of Brandywine, in unincorporated Prince George's, say a gas-fired power plant slated for their neighborhood -- backed by county officials -- imposes health costs on them and their children

/PM BlogSpace Report/ Residents of Brandywine, in Prince George’s County, are fighting a natural gas-fired power plant that they say would unfairly impact a largely African-American community with pollution and the other drawbacks of a big industrial plant in an inadequate neighborhood road grid – while benefiting those who don’t live in their community, including company CEOs.

It is, the lawsuit backed by the environmental organization EarthJustice argues, a violation of state agencies’ responsibilities under federal civil rights law and “smacks of distributional patterns of environmental racism and socio-economic injustice.”

The account in the Washington Post summarized “Local organizations partnered with Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, to ask the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Transportation Department to investigate whether state regulators discriminated against the community when they issued a permit last fall for construction of the Panda Mattawoman power plant.

An account from EarthJustice argues “The state’s Public Service Commission[,]  Department of the Environment, and Department of Natural Resources, which together approved the plant, failed to assess whether the project would cause disparate impact and whether there are ways to avoid such impacts.”

Academic studies are confirming that rampant asthma among communities of color – especially children – is being amplified by the effects of climate change, including fossil fuel power plant pollution.

“We deserve a healthy quality of life, and we don’t deserve to be disproportionately and adversely impacted in our daily lives as it pertains to air quality, traffic and noise,” Kamita Gray, president of Brandywine BTB, told the Post. “We are asking them to listen to the community about the burdens they are asking us to take on.” Brandywine, an unincorporated part of southern Prince George’s, has no mayor or local city council to take on community issues like the power plant.

The county’s officials, including County Executive Rushern Baker, have welcomed the plant as a producer of tax revenue for the cash-strapped county. Panel members at an April 30 conference on environmental justice in Prince George’s had scoffed at county officials’ acceptance of “rapacious development” to increase tax revenue, as Vernice Miller-Travis put it. The veteran environmental activist dismissed those officials as “black people with no vision” suffering from an “inferiority complex” compared to wealthier surround counties.

“The 990-megawatt power plant, proposed by Mattawoman Energy, LLC, would be the fifth fossil-fueled power plant to operate within 13 miles of the community,” the Post article said. Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman, whose organization joined in the suit with EarthJustice, said "National experience teaches us that projects like high-polluting power plants typically go to areas with the least political power and the most people of color—and also in neighborhoods where the clean air, water and open space are most at risk."

EarthJustice attorney Neil Gormley said “… the whole process for deciding how Marylanders get their energy is systematically biased against low-income communities and communities of color. To comply with the Civil Rights Act, Maryland needs a process to ensure that future energy development doesn’t mean even more pollution for these communities.”