Department of the Environment Enforcement Action Leads to Community Project in Curtis Bay

Department of the Environment Enforcement Action Leads to Community Project in Curtis Bay

Settlement with CSX Requires Company to Fund Energy Efficient Environmental Education Center

BALTIMORE (Dec. 23, 2022) – An enforcement action brought by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has led to a requirement that CSX Transportation fund a community-led energy efficient rehabilitation of a vacant building for use as an environmental education, research, and training center for the Curtis Bay community.

Under a settlement to resolve alleged air pollution violations relating to a December 2021 explosion at the CSX coal exporting facility in Curtis Bay, the company must provide$100,000 to a community organization performing an environmental project to benefit the neighborhood and its residents. 

The settlement, finalized today, also requires CSX to pay a $15,000 penalty to MDE and take a series of corrective actions in response to the explosion, including safety improvements to the facility and coordination with Baltimore City officials to improve emergency response and notification procedures. MDE decided it was appropriate that the agreement include the uncommon provision of requiring that the bulk of the penalty go to a community project because of the effect of the explosion on the neighborhood and the longstanding environmental injustices affecting Curtis Bay residents.

MDE has also engaged with the Curtis Bay community throughout this year, with regular meetings to discuss residents’ concerns. MDE is supporting projects to improve air quality and public health, including a partnership between the community and scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland to deploy a community air monitoring network. MDE also launched a targeted compliance oversight initiative at the CSX facility and other permitted sources in Curtis Bay.

“In this enforcement action the Maryland Department of the Environment took decisive steps to assign accountability for the explosion in Curtis Bay and to require actions to help prevent something like this from happening again,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Horacio Tablada. “This enforcement action includes an important environmental project that will directly benefit the Curtis Bay community. This goes hand-in-hand with MDE’s support of air monitoring in the community and our targeted compliance effort of facilities to protect and improve environmental conditions in that area.”

In June, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a Citation and Notification of Penalty against CSX Transportation relating to the Dec. 30, 2021, explosion at the company’s Curtis Bay facility. MDE had been awaiting the results of OSHA’s investigation into the incident, and following a review of that agency’s findings issued a Notice of Violation of state air pollution regulations.

The settlement agreement lists five alleged violations: discharging air pollutants without authorization of the facility’s permit; discharging visible emissions; causing or permitting the discharge of emissions without taking reasonable precautions to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne; operating or maintaining an installation or premises in such a manner that a nuisance or air pollution was created; and by causing or permitting the discharge into the atmosphere of gasses, vapors, or odors beyond the facility’s property line in such a manner that a nuisance or air pollution was created.

As part of the settlement negotiations, discussions were held with the community to determine its preference for an environmental project. That led to the selection of the building renovation project.

Under the settlement, MDE is redirecting $100,000 in potential penalties to instead support the community-led redevelopment of a formerly vacant property in the Curtis Bay community, in partnership with the South Baltimore Community Land Trust and the Community of Curtis Bay Association. The renovated all-electric energy efficient building will serve as a community center for environmental education, research, and training activities. The community also has the option to use money from the settlement for the purchase of an electric van, a charging station, and associated vehicle costs to be used to provide emissions-free transportation for students of the Towson University Department of Sociology and Anthropology-Ben Franklin High School environmental education program, among other community transportation needs.  

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