Alabama Power

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

Coalswarm badge.gif

This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Alabama Power Company
Type Public company (NYSEALF)
Founded 1906
Headquarters Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Key people Charles D. McCrary, Chief Executive Officer and President
Arthur P. Beattie, Chief Financial Officer
Industry Electric Utility
Products Electricity
Revenue $6.08 billion USD (2008)
Employees 6,997 (2008)

Alabama Power Company, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, provides electricity service to 1.4 million homes, businesses, and industries in the southern two-thirds of Alabama. It is one of four U.S. public utilities operated by the Southern Company, one of the nation's largest generators of electricity.[1]

Alabama Power is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility, and the second largest subsidiary of Southern Company. More than 78,000 miles of power lines carry electricity to customers throughout 44,500 square miles.[2]

Alabama Power's hydroelectric generating plants encompass several lakes on the Tallapoosa River, Coosa River, and Black Warrior Rivers, as well as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and cogeneration plants in various parts of the state. In addition to generating electricity, the waters surrounding the plants offer recreational opportunities for Alabama residents and visitors.[2]

Environmental Litigation

In 1999 the United States Environmental Protection Agency commenced an enforcement action against Alabama Power under the Clean Air Act. In 2006, the EPA announced that Alabama Power had agreed to spend more than $200m to upgrade pollution controls as a partial settlement of this action.[3]

The settlement did not include claims regarding five coal fired plants. Those claims proceeded to trial, and Alabama Power prevailed.[4]

However, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has appealed the ruling. SELC was involved in a case against Duke Energy that was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States in 2006, in which the Supreme Court upheld a Clean Air Act program, New Source Review, designed to clean up the nation’s oldest coal-fired power plants. Under New Source Review, a utility must install modern pollution controls whenever modifications are made that result in an increase in emissions, and the Supreme Court held that emissions should be measured on an annual rather than hourly basis, to get a more accurate measurement of when pollution controls should be required. The ruling could force Alabama Power and other utilities to upgrade pollution controls of old coal-fired power plants.[5]

March 2011: Judge dismisses remaining upgrade requirements

On March 14, 2011, U.S. District Judge Virginia Hopkins ruled that "routine maintenance" of coal fired power plants do not require the company to get new clean air permits from the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency had determined that maintenance projects altered plant operations to the point where new permits were required under the New Source Review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. The decade old case dates to eight projects performed at four coal fired plants in Alabama in the mid-eighties to mid-nineties. Five of the claims were dropped by the EPA in 2010. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Virginia Hopkins dismissed the three remaining claims.[6]

Power Generating Facilities

Fossil Fuel Plants

Plant Nearest City Years Built Capacity
Barry Steam Plant Bucks, Alabama 1954, 1959, 1969, 1971 1,771 MW
Gadsden Steam Plant Gadsden, Alabama 1949 138 MW
Gaston Steam Plant Wilsonville, Alabama 1960, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1974 2,103 MW
Gorgas Steam Plant Parrish, Alabama 1951, 1952, 1956, 1958, 1972 1,417 MW
Greene County Steam Plant Demopolis, Alabama 1965, 1966 568 MW
Miller Steam Plant West Jefferson, Alabama 1978, 1985, 1989, 1991 2,822 MW

Alabama Power receives receives federal grant for carbon capture and storage at Barry plant

In December 2009, Southern Company received a $295 million grant from the Department of Energy to retrofit 160MW at the Barry Steam Plant for carbon capture. The company plants to compress and transport the CO2 through a pipeline and store up to one million metric tons per year in deep saline formations. The company will also explore using the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.[7]

Coal plant conversions

Gadsden Steam Plant

The Gadsden plant has the capability to produce steam and electricity using coal or natural gas, or both, and by 2011 was using mainly natural gas. The plant also was an experimental site for burning wood biomass and switch grass fuels, but as of 2012 the plant does not burn biomass.[8]

Gaston Steam Plant

In May 2012, Alabama Power disclosed that it plans to have its four smaller generating units at Gaston, representing 1,000 megawatts, converted to run on natural gas by 2015. The project will involve building a gas pipeline to tie into the Transcontinental pipeline, about 30 miles south of the plant. Gaston's largest unit, 880 megawatts, will remain coal-fired. That unit has pollution control devices, and will likely require additional measures to meet new standards of mercury and other air toxics.[9]

Coal Waste

According to a 2011 analysis of data in the U.S. EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, the Environmental Integrity Project found that Alabama Power's Miller Steam Plant in western Jefferson County, Alabama, sends more toxic metals to its ash pond than any other plant in the country -- more than 5 million pounds annually. The EPA also classified ash ponds by the level of hazard posed if dams were to fail. All but one of the Alabama Power coal ash ponds were classified as a significant risk, meaning that, if a rupture occurred, environmental and property damage would result. One ash pond at the Gaston Steam Plant in Shelby County's Wilsonville is classified as a high hazard, meaning that loss of life could occur if a dam broke. All the ponds lie near waterways that receive treated discharge from the ponds. [10]

A 2010 report by the Environmental Integrity Project using EPA data found that the Miller Station is the 7th worst mercury polluter in the United States, emitting 1,158 pounds of mercury in 2008, the most recent year for data.[11]

Articles and Resources


  1. "Home" Alabama Power Website, accessed December 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 "About Us" Alabama Power Website, accessed December 2009
  3. "Alabama Power Company to Spend More Than $200 Million Under Clean Air Act Settlement" EPA Website, April 25, 2006
  4. "Partial Consent Decree", United States District Court Northern District of Alabama Southern Division, 2006
  5. "The Case Against Alabama Power" Southern Environmental Law Center Website, accessed December 2009
  6. "Alabama Power wins EPA lawsuit" CBS 42, March 14, 2011.
  7. "Laura Miller gets her clean coal grant," Dallas News, December 4, 2009.
  8. Dana Beyerle, "Alabama Power's switch to natural gas an asset for Goodyear," Times Montgomery Bureau, December 19, 2011.
  9. Thomas Spencer, "Alabama Power to connect Shelby plant to natural gas line," The Birmingham News, May 12, 2012.
  10. Thomas Spencer, "Jefferson County plant disposes most toxic ash in US", January 06, 2012.
  11. "Dirty Kilowatts: America's Top 50 Power Plant Mercury Polluters" EIP Report, March 2010.

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Articles , history of Alabama Power Company

Wikipedia also has an article on Alabama Power. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.