Curtis Bay calls upon Gov. Moore and MDE to deny CSX operating permit renewal application, declare just transition from coal

The Community of Curtis Bay Association (CCBA) calls upon Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Serena McILwain to deny the renewal of the operating permit for the CSX coal terminal in Curtis Bay, Maryland. CCBA finds that open air storage of 14 million tons per year of hazardous coal dust within 1,000 ft of homes harms the health, safety and quality of life of the residents of Curtis Bay and neighboring communities in South Baltimore. The permit expires Sep 30th 2023.

CCBA received notice that CSX has applied for a renewal of their operating permit and is seeking to operate under the same inadequate permit standards despite a decades-long history of resident concerns about dark dust trespassing onto their homes preceding the massive explosion in December 2021. The explosion sent coal dust throughout the community, causing damage to homes, businesses and public facilities, and exposed residents to harmful pollutants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited CSX for 7 serious violations, and MDE issued a notice of violation to the company.

The explosion was not an isolated incident, but came after decades of residents reporting dark dust on their homes that they suspect to be coming from the open-air coal terminal. The terminal sits only 1,000 feet from residents’ homes, their voting station and recreation center at 1630 Filbert St. Despite these concerns, MDE and state officials have failed to protect the community by renewing CSX’s permit with little to no heightened standards or mitigation funds.

CSX currently pays no host community impact fees, despite handling 14 million tons of coal in the Curtis Bay community which is in the 99th percentile nationwide for proximity to facilities legally required to have Risk Management Plans (RMPs). The community estimates over $2 billion worth of coal is stored and moved through the community each year. CCBA supports fellow residents in Curtis Bay and their neighbors in South Baltimore communities that sit just feet from the CSX rail line where uncovered coal rail cars pass through en route to the Curtis Bay terminal before being exported by barge overseas. 

CCBA calls on MDE to reject CSX’s permit renewal request. CCBA calls on Maryland officials and MDE to initiate a structured, just transition away from coal to a safer material that will ensure good jobs while reducing negative community impacts.

In the interim, the CCBA calls for the strongest standards in the nation to be set for the terminal, including:

  • Enforceable limits on emissions, which are currently lacking at the facility 
  • Full enclosure of the terminal to reduce dust from entering the community
  • Per ton mitigation fees to be paid to neighboring communities to address the negative impacts of having 14 million tons of coal per year transferred through South Baltimore communities

The new MDE secretary Serena McIlwain, appointed by Gov. Wes Moore, has declared environmental justice (EJ) to be her top priority and held her first EJ listening session in Curtis Bay’s recreation center less than 1,000 feet from the terminal. In April, McIlwain said “We know it’s coal dust. No more rhetoric. We are going to make some things happen.” The CCBA urges Secretary McIlwain to act on her commitment to EJ and to listen to the voices of the residents who have suffered from the impacts of the coal terminal for too long.

CCBA lifts up the recent example of Richmond, California, where the city council voted to ban coal storage and handling by 2027. Richmond’s decision was driven by concerns about health problems stemming from coal dust, which are similar to those faced by Curtis Bay residents. In Richmond, the resident-led collaborative effort between community, researchers, and government demonstrated the ability to solve big challenges identified by people directly impacted. 


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