Two federal agencies announced this week that they will investigate whether Maryland regulators discriminated against a majority-black community by issuing a permit last fall to build a natural-gas power plant in southern Prince George’s County.
Residents of rural Brandywine, working with the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, filed a civil rights complaint last month alleging that air pollution from the proposed Panda Mattawoman power plant would disproportionately affect their unincorporated town, which is 72 percent African American.
Two power plants already exist in the Brandywine area, and two more, including Panda Mattawoman, are proposed within 15 miles.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Transportation Department, which provide funds for the relevant Maryland regulatory agencies and oversee their compliance with civil rights laws, said in a letter to Earthjustice on Tuesday that they have agreed to investigate the claim.
“We all know it’s unfair to concentrate industrial pollution sources in particular communities,” Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley said in a statement. “This decision to launch a federal investigation confirms that it’s also a civil rights issue.”