Yesterday, we submitted a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) urging them to reject Aligned Data Center's request for a rehearing on their request to be exempted from the proper regulatory process for installing 168 diesel generators. Aligned Data Centers is pursuing construction of a data center on the Quantum Loophole site south of Frederick City. Aligned previously had requested that the 168 diesel generators they want to use on site as backup power, equaling a total of 504 megawatts, to be given an exception from the PSC’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Need (CPCN) process. The PSC unanimously denied the request for an exception to the CPCN process, citing Maryland's environmental laws and Maryland's requirements to reduce GHG emissions (Frederick News-Post: Data center's development plan delayed by state commission, 8/3/2023). Now, Aligned has requested a rehearing on that decision, hoping to get an exception from the CPCN process after all (Frederick News-Post: Aligned Data Centers requests rehearing from state commission, 9/6/2023). Together with grassroots environmental groups in Frederick, we and environmental organizations across the state are requesting that the PSC stand by its earlier unanimous decision, and consider the questions raised by these diesel generators through the proper venue: the CPCN processes.
September 14, 2023
VIA ELECTRONIC FILING
Andrew S. Johnston
Maryland Public Service Commission
6 Saint Paul St., 16th Floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Re: ML No. 302893 –Application for Rehearing of AlignedData Centers (MD) Propco, LLC
Dear Mr. Johnston,
12 14* environmental organizations encourage the Public Service Commission to stand by its earlier decision to deny an exception to the Certificate of Public Convenience and Need process for Aligned Data Center’s request to utilize 168 sixteen-cylinder diesel generators as backup power at their proposed data center in Frederick County.
As the data center industry seeks to grow in Maryland, it must follow our environmental and energy laws for the good of Maryland residents and of the climate. The applicant cited legislation the General Assembly has passed regarding incentivizing data center development in Maryland; the General Assembly has also passed much legislation regarding transitioning to renewable energy. Maryland has set a high bar among states with its adoption and implementation of some of the nation’s most ambitious climate policies. It has also specifically directed the Public Service Commission to consider climate change in its actions, which is noteworthy when enormous arrays of diesel generators which may be replaceable with less-emitting technology are proposed. These two goals of transitioning from fossil fuels and attracting well-planned data center development do not need to be in conflict, but threading the needle on both deserves the consideration that the CPCN process can provide.
Particularly concerning is Aligned’s assertion that “the minimal emissions from the generating stations can be fully mitigated by the purchase [...] of RECs.” The purchase of RECs would not “fully mitigate” the additional air pollution burden posed by the burning of diesel on site; it would merely subsidize the production of a Tier 1 energy source elsewhere. That would do nothing to address the diesel generators’ contribution to local poor air quality in Frederick County, and would not prevent greenhouse gas emissions from the diesel generators from entering the atmosphere. The PSC should evaluate the actual impact of emissions from the proposed generators, regardless of any potential purchase of RECs.
The questions raised by Aligned’s proposal are appropriate to consider within the Certificate of Public Convenience and Need process, as the PSC’s original decision found; to grant an exemption and sidestep that consideration would be inappropriate. We urge the Public Service Commission to stand by its earlier decision, deny Aligned Data Centers’ application for exemption, and move forward with the CPCN process as a venue to consider these important questions.
Clean Water Action
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Maryland Legislative Coalition
Audubon Society of Central Maryland
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland
Cedar Lane Environmental Justice Ministry
Elders Climate Action Maryland
Maryland Conservation Council
Third Act DMV
Climate Reality Greater Maryland
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Maryland League of Conservation Voters
* UPDATE: After filing, two additional organizations signed on to this comment letter:
Climate Justice Wing