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Panda Power Plant Is Anything But Black and White

FractivistsK.J. Rodgers
Crownsville, Maryland  

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Panda is developing a new natural gas-fired power plant in Maryland, and environmentalist groups are saying it’s black and white. It’s anything but. 

Last year, the fight against the Panda Mattawoman Power Plant came to a head. Groups like the Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Earthjustice decided that to fight the new natural gas-fired power plant, they needed to make it civil rights instead of environmental rights.

I discussed the brewing fight here and from I could gather, this was NIMBYism and not based on race. If it were the latter then civil rights activists would have been brought it. Where is the NAACP, National Urban League or the ACLU? Where is my favorite, the Institute of Justice? It is really about keeping the power plants out of the area.

New Gas-Fired Power Plant

The Panda Mattawoman Power Project

Panda Mattawoman was the third power plant planned in the area. With two more natural gas plants being planned, that means five plants, (four gas and one coal) operating within a 15-mile radius. If you thought the hype was over the top for one, the plan to add two additional plants to the area is ramping up screams of civil injustice.

Brandywine, Maryland is the home of this cluster of plants. It is a rural area with 6,719 residents, 72% are Black or African American according to the 2010 census. The area is also close to Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA, and Andrew’s Air Force Base. All demand power and lots of it. Brandywine’s large open spaces and proximity to existing infrastructure such as Pepco transmissions lines and a natural gas pipeline makes it an ideal location for these power plants.

Locations of the Power Plants

Fred Tutman of the Patuxent Riverkeepers claims their aim is only to change the process to allow the community to have more say – that after they filed a federal civil rights complaint against several of the state agencies that approved the construction of the Mattawoman plant. Nonetheless, Bill Pentak, Panda Vice President of Public Affairs, said the project was hardly news for the community:

“This has been a two-and-a-half year process for us, including public hearings with community members. At the end of it, seven state agencies reviewed our proposal and approved it,” said Pentak. “We’ve done our environmental impact studies and submitted them for review. We are not trying to hide anything.”

 

List of Active Power Plants

The Pink dots represents power plants, while the Blue marks coal ash dumps.

Critics argue that, on top of civil right infringements, these power plants are too close together in this confined area. CNN Money’s coverage of the story reminds the readers two of the plants are a “handful of miles” away from the Brandywine Elementary School. There are, though, few places in the nation where you will be further than a handful of miles from some kind of power plant. Maryland itself boasts 74 active plants so no matter where you are, one is nearby.

Moreover, the ongoing air quality in Maryland has been improving steadily. We as a state are, for the first time in 30 years, close to hitting federal air quality standards. This is not being happening through the use of renewables but from the use of natural gas. While it is true natural gas-fired power plants do produce some emissions; they are far lower than those of coal.

With the stability and our abundance of natural gas, we are seeing a positive shift in overall air quality in Ohio, Colorado, to Pennsylvania. Production is and consumption is up higher than ever and our air is getting better, so it stands to reason one or two more gas plants will replace one or two coal plants that either exist or would otherwise be needed, giving the citizens of Brandywine higher air quality than they have had in the past or would have in the future.

These projects are also going to bring hundreds of new jobs to the area during construction and bring in over $640 million dollars in tax revenue over the 40 year-life span. Compare the PSEG Keys Energy Center, one of the new Brandywine natural gas-fired power plants, to the offshore wind project in Ocean City.

  PSEG Keys Energy Center U.S. Wind’s Ocean City Farm
Cost to Build $850 million $1.9 billion
Space Used 180 acres 80,000 acres
Megawattage 755 750
Homes Powered 500,000 500,000
State Tax Revenues $640M over 40 years or
$16M/per year
$74M over 20 years or
$3.7M/per year

These new power plants are not a civil rights issue. This is another example of fractivist groups attempting to put ideology above all else and playing it as if they are the protectors of the mistreated. Perhaps they would have a little more credibility on the civil rights score if they weren’t “mostly run by well-off white people concerned about conserving critters and our country’s natural beauty, not the health and welfare,” as even their friends at Grist noticed in an article about “The Unstainable Whiteness of Green.”

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3 thoughts on “Panda Power Plant Is Anything But Black and White

  1. The air quality in my rural county is not better with gas development..
    We had no industry to speak of and our air quality has diminished with the 50 gas compressor stations, endless Industry traffic and expanding gas Wells and pipelines…

  2. Someone needs to start calling out these “environmental” groups for using the minorities as their victims of the month. They have been trying to use this argument without success since the industry started growing.

    There were claims that the “fracked gas” would harm the poor minority children in the inner cities because there was radon in it. The reality is, by replacing the heavy oil used in New York city buildings, the air quality has become greatly improved.

    Then of course there were the women, destined to be victims of “man camps” or the elderly, destined to be bullied in to signing leases they didn’t understand. Because it was so easy to convince people that rural America doesn’t look out for our neighbors.

    Standing Rock protesters would not have been able to raise over $14 million dollars without using the tribe as a front. Ironically, while the crowd was being convinced that these poor victims needed to be rescued by the “environmentalist”, 3 people on the reservation died from the cold. Before the protests, only about 8000 people lived on the Standing Rock reservation. How do you raise that amount of money to “Stand” with such a small group and let 3 people die? The out of state protesters were all kept from freezing.

    So, now we are back to the “poor minorities” as this month’s victims. It is time we start pointing out that these “environmental” groups just use whatever group they need to do what is best for themselves.

  3. The real “victim” of rabid environmentalism is the ability of our capitalist economy to seek the most-sought after lower-cost operating points most efficiently. It is all about the efficient delivery of goods and services.

    The ability to innovate and change quickly FOR THE BETTER is the reason that the Soviet Union lost miserably in the economic race with the USA, back in the late 80s. I saw the legacy of East Germany and its decrepit infrastructure that came with socialism. And the environment? It sure did not get any high standing under socialism, as it does under representative democratic government and capitalism. These environmentalists need to go visit Beijing to get some perspective about just how good we have it here.

    Every time the environmentalists delay and cause more waste of effort, they and others pay for it with higher costs of living, and less-efficient delivery of good and services.

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