Monday 22 April 2019

New law requires excavation of all sites in Chesapeake Bay watershed

Today, Virginia legislators passed a law in a bipartisan effort to safely dispose of toxic coal ash stored on the banks of rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The legislation will require the complete excavation of the more than 28 million tons of coal ash Dominion currently stores at Chesterfield Power Station, Chesapeake Energy Center, Possum Point Power Station, and Bremo Power Station.

“We applaud the efforts of the Potomac and James Riverkeepers who have worked for years in local communities and the courts, with other advocates, legislators and citizens, to find a common sense solution to a legacy of toxic coal ash stored on the banks of our rivers,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “It is critically important to have strong laws on the state level during this time when federal agencies are attempting to eliminate rules protecting our waterways from toxic coal ash and to rollback other Clean Water Act protections.”

The new law will require Dominion to do the following:

  • Excavate all of the coal ash at these four facilities, and either recycle the ash into products like cement and concrete, or place it in modern, lined landfills. At least a quarter of the coal ash must be recycled, and the construction of any new landfills will be subject to local zoning and permitting requirements;
  • Develop a transportation plan with the affected localities where any coal ash needs to be moved offsite; and
  • Prioritize the hiring of local workers throughout the closure process.

Sen. Zirkin, Del. Fraser-Hidalgo Sponsor Pipeline and Water Protection Act

Last week, the Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (PAWPA) was introduced, the latest move to protect Maryland’s waters from dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines. PAWPA would require the state of Maryland to conduct a full Water Quality Certification review of any proposed fracked gas pipelines, as it is authorized to do under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Previously, state authorities abdicated this responsibility when the Potomac Pipeline was proposed. This bill follows the Board of Public Works’ recent decision denying the Potomac Pipeline’s construction easement under the Potomac River. Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who sponsored the state's 2017 fracking ban, are primary sponsors of PAWPA, SB 387 and HB 669.

Surface and ground waters can suffer long-term harms during the construction of fracked gas pipelines. A drilling blowout can release toxic drilling chemicals into the soil and adjacent waters and construction can alter routes and rates of water flow. Once in operation, gas pipelines continue to pose contamination dangers. Gas leaked from a pipeline includes toxic chemicals and a pipeline failure will release explosive methane.

This legislation would require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to use its section 401 authority to conduct full, independent reviews of new, proposed interstate gas pipelines to assess their impact on the state’s water resources.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake supports both bills with an amendment to have the public notice, comment and hearing provisions apply to all projects that fall under CWA Section 401. With the proliferation of proposed gas pipelines, this Act is critically important. There are other types of projects that fall under the 401 section of the Clean Water Act that should also receive improved reviews as outline in the Act.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is part of a coalition of climate and clean water advocates supporting this Act. Read full press release.

Legislation would hold Exelon financially responsible for reducing pollution

(Annapolis, Md.) – Maryland Delegate Jay Jacobs (R-36) joined forces with urban and rural legislators to introduce House Joint Resolution 8 (HJ8) that will hold the Exelon Generation Company, LLC, financially responsible for a portion of the Conowingo Dam’s cleanup costs, as well as at least 25 percent of the costs associated with the Dam’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). Exelon owns and operates the dam, located on the lower Susquehanna River in Maryland, approximately 10 miles north of where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

“This bipartisan legislation presents a common-sense solution to reducing the sediment pollution stored behind the Conowingo Dam,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “The burden for cleaning up pollution behind the Conowingo Dam should not fall solely on Maryland taxpayers. Exelon is a multi-million-dollar corporation and should pay its fair share of the total cleanup costs. We urge the General Assembly to support this resolution to sustain the upkeep of the dam and protect clean water.”

To help the state meet its requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, Maryland is including a WIP specifically to address Conowingo Dam for the first time. WIPs document the steps, measures and practices Maryland and its local jurisdictions take to achieve and maintain overall Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.

“As a representative of the Eastern Shore and watermen, my constituents and I are on the front lines of downstream effects of pollution from Conowingo Dam – particularly acute during flooding events,” Delegate Jacobs said. “Our livelihoods are already being affected by Chesapeake Bay pollution – we should not have to bear the financial responsibility for pollution from Conowingo as well.”

Since its construction in 1928, Conowingo Dam has trapped polluted sediment from the Susquehanna River and its 27,000-square-mile drainage area. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has concluded that the dam’s reservoir is now at capacity and studies estimate that there are nearly 200 million tons of sediment, nutrients and other pollutants trapped behind the dam. During major floods caused by large storms, powerful floodwaters can scoop out or “scour” the stored sediment pollution behind the dam and send that downstream to the Chesapeake Bay.

Supporters of the bill say they believe it is imperative to get Exelon “on the hook” for at least a portion of the clean up costs to ensure the success of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort.

Some of the other sponsors of the joint resolution include:

Del. David Moon (D, MoCo) 

Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D, MoCo) 

Del. Vaughn Stewart (D, MoCo) 

Del. Carl Anderton (R, Wicomico) 

Del. Steven Arentz (R, Kent, Queen Anne's and Caroline) 

Del. Nicholaus Kipke (R, Anne Arundel & Minority Leader) 

Del. Kathy Szeliga (R, Baltimore and Harford) 


Media Contact: Betsy Nicholas, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 202-423-0504


For more information about the Conowingo Dam, go to: