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Crane power plant in Baltimore County set to reopen after regulator denies environmentalists’ appeal

Crane power plant in Baltimore County set to reopen after regulator denies environmentalists’ appeal
Plans to reopen the C.P. Crane power plant in Baltimore County are still on track after the Maryland Public Service Commission denied an appeal by environmental and community groups. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

The C.P. Crane power plant in Baltimore County is set to reopen after Maryland regulators on Wednesday denied an appeal filed by environmental and community groups who raised concerns about climate change.

The Public Service Commission said a state utility judge was justified in approving plans for the former coal plant to be replaced with a natural gas-fired facility on the same site in Bowleys Quarters. The panel said that review of the proposal fairly considered potential environmental and community impacts, as well as the need for electricity reliability.

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Patrick DeArmey, a lawyer with the Environmental Action Center who is representing the groups, said they are reviewing the commission’s order and considering options for potential further action. That could include a lawsuit in state circuit court. The petitioners included advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore and the Essex-Middle River Civic Council.

The Crane plant burned oil and later coal for 50 years on a peninsula between two Gunpowder River creeks before it was retired last June. It closed as part of a settlement with state environmental regulators who said the facility was not properly testing its emissions and exceeded limits for particulate matter, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. It was also levied a $105,000 fine.

The plant’s owners, an affiliate of Middle River Power, a private equity-backed company based in Chicago, proposed building new power units fueled by natural gas and, when that’s not available, low-sulfur diesel fuel. Unlike the coal-fired units, which provided constant baseload power, the new plant would operate only when electricity is in high demand.

The environmental and community groups had raised concerns not about the plant’s environmental impact, but about how it could be affected by sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.

In their order, commissioners said state law does not “specifically or generally require considerations regarding climate change" when reviewing power plant projects.

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