Dirty Recs Foul Renewable Energy in Maryland

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October 15, 2019

Incineration and other dirty fuels dressed up and sold as “green” to consumers

Incineration and other dirty fuels dressed up and sold as “green” to consumers

Washington, DC – Maryland is failing to enforce provisions of its renewable energy law that require facilities that sell renewable energy credits to electricity providers in Maryland to be in substantial compliance with environmental and administrative laws, according to a letter sent today by the Energy Justice Network (EJN) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“People think their electric bills are being invested in wind and solar with this law, but mostly they’re getting polluted instead by trash and ‘biomass’ incinerators, paper mills, landfills and other industries dressed up as renewable energy sources,” said Mike Ewall, director of Energy Justice Network. “The fact that many of these polluters are making millions each year and fail to even follow environmental laws and minimal recycling requirements just adds insult to injury.”

In a letter to Attorney General Frosh and Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Stanek, EJN and PEER outline a pattern of non-compliance with facilities selling renewable energy credits (RECs) generated from burning pulp and paper waste (known as black liquor), biomass and incineration to Maryland electricity providers. In 2018, RECs from these dirty sources of energy accounted for 35 percent of Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, Maryland’s principle program for incentivizing clean energy in the state.

“Maryland is abdicating its enforcement responsibilities and giving these polluters a free ride. It should stop requiring Maryland ratepayers to subsidize wealthy corporations who flout anti-pollution requirements,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

In the letter, EJN and PEER ask the Attorney General and Chairman Stanek to look into whether companies have been illegally profiting from REC sales charged to Maryland ratepayers when they are not in compliance with the RPS law’s requirements for selling RECs. They also ask the PSC to develop regulations to interpret the law and to start enforcing the law as soon as possible.

“Trash incineration is the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste or to make energy. It’s dirtier than burning coal, and more polluting than landfills,” explained Mike Ewall. Trash incinerators in Baltimore City and Montgomery County in Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia, profit from about $3-5 million per year in credits financed by Maryland ratepayers. Baltimore and Montgomery County are already on record opposing these credits, and are seeking to move beyond burning.

Burning trees or paper mill waste is worse for the climate than burning coal. With this year’s closure of the Luke Mill – Maryland’s largest air polluter – these credits are now going entirely out-of-state, to support 11 paper mills and some tree burners as far as Kentucky and Tennessee.

By subsidizing these corporations, Maryland is diverting the hard-earned incomes of Maryland ratepayers to wealthy corporations with poor environmental compliance records and undermining the state’s transition to clean renewable energy, the letter states.


See the Letter

Compliance History of Coventa, Montgomery County, MD

See enforcement actions listed in EPA’s database

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