Defending Civil Rights in Brandywine, Maryland

Prince George’s County is already in violation of national air quality standards for ozone, which is linked to asthma. By Mattawoman Energy’s own admission, the new gas plant will combine with existing pollution sources to cause excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is linked to heart disease, asthma and stroke.

Case Overview

Brandywine is in an unincorporated portion of Prince George County that is 72 percent African-American. A 990-megawatt power plant, proposed by Mattawoman Energy, LLC, would be the fifth fossil-fueled power plant to operate within 13 miles of the community.

Brandywine already faces excessive levels of pollution because two of the state’s power plants are either in the community or nearby. Three additional plants that have been permitted, including the one proposed by Mattawoman, have yet to be built.

The state of Maryland is facing a federal civil rights complaint, filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of residents in the majority black community of Brandywine, after the state approved a permit for the gas-fired power plant that would have disproportionate pollution impacts on the basis of race.

The state of Maryland is required under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act to consider whether there would be an unjustified unequal impact on the basis of race in approving a project that would cause pollution and involves the use of federal funds. The state’s Public Service Commission Department of the Environment, and Department of Natural Resources, which together approved the plant, failed to assess whether the project would cause disparate impact and whether there are ways to avoid such impacts.

The complaint was filed with the offices of civil rights at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation because those federal agencies fund the relevant Maryland agencies and they are required by law to investigate and address the civil rights violation.

The complainants, the Brandywine TB Coalition and Patuxent Riverkeeper, are concerned about increasing air pollution, noise pollution, traffic congestion, and depressed property values.

The Chalk Point Generating System is one of two power plants already operating near or in Brandywine.
The Chalk Point Generating System is one of two power plants already operating near or in Brandywine. (Imagery: ©2016 Google; Map Data: ©2016 Google)

Case Updates

October 31, 2016 Press Release

Maryland Agencies to Mediate Civil Rights Complaint Over Prince George’s County Power Plant

Community groups seek relief from racially discriminatory pollution burden and health harms

June 15, 2016 Press Release

Maryland Power Plant Decision Prompts Federal Investigation

State faces possible loss of millions in funding for authorizing pollution in violation of civil rights laws

June 15, 2016 document

EPA.DOT Letter

EPA and DOT Acceptance of Title VI Complaint