By: Katie O’Brien
Brandywine is a town of less than 7,000 people located in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The population in the county is 60% African American and they are all victims of environmental racism. Brandywine is a 21 square mile town is already home to one large gas-fired power plant. A few months ago, not one, but TWO additional gas fired power plants were approved to be built in the town. The neighboring towns already have a gas-fired power plant with another under construction. The area will have FIVE gas-fired power plants in the future, making the Brandywine area have more fossil fuel power plant capacity than 99.9% of the country according to the Energy Justice Network.
The area already has unacceptable air quality and was declared by the EPA to be in “non-attainment” for ground level ozone pollution. According to the EPAs ozone health page, breathing ozone can cause a decrease in lung function, inflammation of the airways, and induction of respiratory symptoms such as coughing, throat irritation, pain and burning while breathing, and chest tightness, among others. It even states that ozone is associated with increased mortality. In some studies on lab animals, long-term exposure to ozone could cause “morphological changes that could be a market of chronic respiratory disease”. It is crazy to think that in an area where there are already non-attainable levels of ozone, that two more ozone producing power plants were approved to be built, especially with the clear information from the EPA about the dangers of ozone exposure.
Residents of the area are just learning of the power plants approval. Many of the local newspapers in the area shut down in recent years. When residents of the area found out about the proposed sites, they requested an extension on public comment to alert more people; they were given “tiny legal notice in a newspaper, which was inadequate to notify people of public hearings”. Since the sites have already been approved residents are having a hard time trying to fight back against the power plants. The surrounding communities in the Brandywine area are all victims of environmental racism and their rights are being violated with the construction of these gas-fired plants.