This blog post was written by a former fellow, Katie O’Brien
Last year, I wrote a blog about the environmental racism taking place in Brandywine, MD after the state approved not one, but two gas-fired power plants in the small town. The town of Brandywine is 21 square miles and home to over 6,700 people, 72% of whom are African American. There is already one operating power plant in the town, and the construction of the two proposed plants will result in FIVE total fossil-fuel powered plants within 13 miles of Brandywine. The town sits within Prince George’s County, which is already in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s national air quality standards for ozone particulate. The company building one of the power plants, Mattawoman, has already stated that the site, combined with existing pollution, will cause “excessive levels of nitrogen oxide, which is linked to heart disease, asthma, and stroke”. The state of Maryland is home to 13 power plants, all of which are located in disproportionately black communities.
The Brandywine community and effected surrounding towns just recently gained some ground in their fight this June (2016) when a Federal investigation was launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate a possible Civil Rights Violation. The complaint was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of community residents, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, and the Brandywine TB Coalition. The power plants have an adverse impact on the majority African American surrounding community. The complaint states that the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources “failed to assess whether the project would cause disparate impacts or explore alternatives to avoid such impacts”. If the investigation finds that disparate impact is taking place, Maryland agencies can be found in violation of the Civil Rights Act and risk the suspension of millions of dollars in grants to the State. Earthjustice Attorney Neil Gormley, who is leading the case says, “We all know it’s unfair to concentrate industrial pollution sources in particular communities, this decision to launch a federal investigation confirms that it’s also a civil rights issue.” The communities surrounding the proposed power plants have the right to clean air and water, despite what the state thinks.
To follow the community’s fight click here.