Florida and coal

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Florida had 30 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 11,382 MW of capacity - representing 18.8% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[1] In 2008, Florida's coal-fired power plants produced 120.9 million tons of CO2, 271,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 170,000 tons of nitrogen oxide.[2] As of March 2010, coal is used for 30% of the state's electricity demand.[3]

In 2005, Florida emitted 15 tons of CO2 per person.[4] This relatively low total is due to the relative lack of heavy industry in the state, and to the strong role that natural gas (which represents 50.5% of Florida's electric generating capacity) plays in the state's power industry.[1]

No coal was mined in Florida in 2010.[3] In May 2010 the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report titled, Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal. In the paper the group reported that Florida was the fourth most coal dependent state in the country, spending $1.6 billion on coal imports in 2008.[5]


Coal reserves in Florida are marginal, and the state consequently has no history of coal mining.[6] The coal power industry has in recent years been fairly powerful in the state: 17 plants, which collectively represent 66% of the state's coal-fired power generating capacity, have been built in Florida since 1980. However, in July 2007, Charlie Crist, Florida's newly-elected Republican governor, signed an executive order mandating CO2 to 40% below 2007 levels by 2025; in this context, it will probably be impossible to build another traditional coal-fired power plant, and four coal-fired power plant proposals - Polk Power Station Unit 6, Seminole 3, Stanton Energy Center, and Taylor Energy Center - have been cancelled or rejected since then.[7]

Citizen activism

March 20, 2009: 'Bluegrass at the Bank' hits Bank of America branch in Sarasota, FL

Members of Mountain Justice and Earth First! from Florida and Appalachia disrupted the lobby of a Bank of America branch in Sarasota in protest of the Bank's continued funding of mountaintop removal mining and the construction of new coal-fired power plants despite recent claims of environmental concern. While several folks distributed informational hand-outs about BoA's investments in coal to tellers and account-holders, one individual played bluegrass banjo to celebrate the culture of the Appalachian region that BoA's investments so threaten. The activists' signs read, "Bank of America: still funding coal, killing communities."[8]

Legislation and executive orders

In July 2007, Governor Charlie Crist signed three executive orders for Florida's energy policy, commiting to reducing the state's greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency:

Executive Order 07-126 is titled "Leadership by Example: Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Florida State Government." This measure included a commitment to reduce emissions 10 percent by 2012, 25 percent by 2017, and 40 percent by 2025. The order called for higher energy efficiency in government buildings and fuel efficiency in state vehicles.[9]

Executive Order 07-127 is titled "Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions within Florida." This order established the maximum emission level of greenhouse gases for electric utilities. The standard requires a reduction of emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025, and to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. The measure also called for the adoption of California motor vehicle emission standards, which require a 22 percent reduction in vehicle emissions by 2012 and 30 percent reduction by 2016. The Governor also requested that the PSC adopt a 20 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2020, with an emphasis on solar and wind energy.[9]

Executive Order 07-128 is titled "Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change" and called for the creation of a Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. This team, appointed by Governor Crist, is responsible for an action plan that would provide further recommendations for proposed legislation for consideration by the Florida state legislature.[9]

On October 15, 2008, Florida released its action plan to curb global warming. The proposal includes fifty policy recommendations, which if adopted would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide $28 billion in savings by 2025. If all fifty recommendations are implemented, emissions could be reduced 64 percent by 2025. The action plan constitutes a 51 percent reduction of emissions below 2005 levels and a 33 percent reduction below 1990 levels, beyond the targets Governor Crist had asked the Action Team to achieve.[10][11]


Importing Colombian coal

A new coal terminal at the Port of Jacksonville, Florida is slated to open in 2011, and could open markets in the southeastern and midwestern U.S. to Colombian coal. Use of Keystone Coal Co.’s $20 million Keystone Coal Terminal is expected to create access to imported coal that is 10 to 20 percent cheaper than domestic coal, according to Keystone owner Tom Scholl, because rates for rail transport of U.S. coal continue to increase, the cost of getting the Colombian product to buyers would be less, he said. Scholl suggested that despite calls for more environmentally-friendly forms of energy, the lower cost of Colombian coal would ensure its continued use for electrical generation.[12]

In 2011, Florida Rep. Mike Weinstein (R-Jacksonville) created a political action committee, and its biggest backer has been Keystone Industries, which opened a shipping terminal at Jacksonville’s port and says it wants to create a “superport.” The coal company gave $30,000 in large part, Weinstein said, because he played a big role in helping the company when the Jacksonville Port Authority tried to assume public ownership over the coal terminal.[13]

Lawyer says Progress Energy owes Florida customers for overpriced coal

On February 24, 2009, the attorney for Florida's utility customers announced a case against Progress Energy, alleging that the company owes its 1.7 million customers a $61 million refund for overpriced coal used during 2006 and 2007. According to Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, Progress could have avoided extra costs by burning less expensive coal, but the company failed to secure a permit to do so.

The counsel's office has filed a request with the Florida PSC to order Progress to refund the money. Hearings will begin in April, and a decision should come in June 2009. Progress Energy Florida lost a similar case before the PSC in 2007, when the commission ordered the company to refund $13.8 million for buying more expensive coal from 2003 to 2005.[14]

Proposed coal plants


There are no active coal power plant proposals in Florida.


Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

Existing coal plants

Florida had 30 coal-fired generating units at 14 locations in 2005, with 11,382 megawatts (MW) of capacity - representing 18.8% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[15]

Here is a list of coal power plants in Florida with capacity over 400 MW:[1][16]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Crystal River Citrus Progress Energy 1966, 1969, 1982, 1984 2443 MW 21,159,000 tons 95,548 tons 105
Big Bend Hillsborough TECO Energy 1970, 1973, 1976, 1985 1823 MW 10,700,000 tons 13,977 tons 223
Seminole Putnam Seminole Electric Cooperative 1984, 1985 1429 MW 8,710,000 tons 22,773 tons 194
St. Johns River Duval JEA 1987, 1988 1358 MW 10,100,000 tons 23,020 tons 211
Crist Escambia Southern Company 1959, 1961, 1970, 1973 1135 MW 5,737,000 tons 35,614 tons 77
Stanton Orange Orlando Utilities Commission 1987, 1996 929 MW 6,240,000 tons 6,255 tons 225

These 6 plants represent 84.0% of Florida's coal energy generating capacity, 25.7% of the state's total CO2 emissions, and 23.6% of its total SO2 emissions.[4]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Coal unit closures

Crystal River to close by 2020, replaced by nuclear plant

In December 2008, Progress Energy Florida announced it will close two of the state's worst polluting coal-fired generators when its new Levy County nuclear plant is up and running in 2020. The company said the closure of two units at its Crystal River Energy Complex in Citrus County represents the equivalent of removing 830,000 vehicles from Florida's roads. The decision follows months of talks with state officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael W. Sole, said Progress Energy Florida chief executive Jeff Lyash. Crist has hoped to reduce state carbon dioxide emissions to the 1990 level by 2025. The scheduled closure of the two Crystal River plants means the company would be 60 percent of the way toward the governor's goal, according to Progress Energy officials. Independent studies have listed the two coal plants among the nation's top 50 polluters.[17]

The energy created by the two Crystal River coal plants, which opened in 1966 and 1969, will be replaced by the new nuclear plant set to be built at a cost of $17-billion in Levy County. Two coal-fired power generators will remain in operation at the Citrus County site, as will a nuclear reactor. Progress Energy will spend $1.3-billion installing air emission-reduction equipment at the two remaining coal-fired plants. Early in 2007, Progress Energy won approval to raise bills 25 percent starting in January to pay for higher 2008 fuel costs and for early costs of the $17-billion nuclear project. The nuclear charge will add about $13 a month to the bill of the average residential customer, about 10 percent more.[17]

Coal waste

Overview of coal ash in Florida

Florida generates over 6.1 million tons of coal ash per year, ranking 8th in the United States for ash generation. [18] According to a 2007 EPA risk assessment, three surface impoundments and landfills in Florida are unlined, and one is clay-lined. Of these sites, two do not have a leachate collection system. There are nine ponds at two plants. Three coal ash ponds were commissioned in 2009, but the six other ponds are over 25 years old. One pond, at the Lansing Smith Generating Plant in Pensacola, was constructed in 1965.

According to the EPA database, four ponds at the Big Bend Station cover an area of 164 acres, but storage capacity data are missing for five other ponds at this facility. The Lansing Smith Generating Plant claimed “confidential business information” and included no information about size, storage capacity, or the last regulatory inspection.

Coal ash regulations in Florida

Florida law does not regulate coal ash ponds. There are no requirements for liners, siting, design, maintenance, groundwater monitoring, financial assurance, or closure. Furthermore, if coal ash is disposed in an onsite landfill at a power plant authorized under the Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA), no separate permits, including construction and operating permits, are required. Instead, the entire facility is covered under the PPSA certification. Florida is one of only two states (along with AL) that relaxed portions of its coal ash standards between 1988 and 2005. [19]

Coal ash pile in Orange County, FL may be leaking radioactive waste

The Florida EPA is expected to ask the Orlando Utilities Commission to investigate the ash pile from its coal plant in eastern Orange County in early 2009. Officials believe the landfill is leaking radioactivity into a shallow underground aquifer. If the uranium and radium found in the coal combustion waste is causing elevated radioactivity in groundwater, it would be a sign that the liner is failing. Authorities say there is no immediate threat to local residents. The ash pile is 70-feet tall and holds several million tons of coal waste. As of September 2010 the EPA had taken no steps to close down the plant.[20]

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Florida, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[21] The report mentioned Florida's McIntosh Power Plant was one site that has groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[22]

There are six documented cases of coal ash contamination of water in Florida:

1. City of Lakeland, McIntosh Power Plant: Groundwater around two unlined coal ash landfills and ponds is contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, lead, selenium, and other pollutants above federal and state standards. FDEP Consent Order was issued in 2001 to address monitoring and cleanup. In 2010, the drinking water standard for arsenic was exceeded in 15 wells. Disposal areas are near Lake Parker, a recreational lake with densely populated shoreline.

2. Florida Power & Light, Lansing Smith Generating Plant: Documented exceedances of primary drinking water standards for cadmium, chromium and fluoride and secondary drinking water standards for sulfate, chloride, manganese and iron in on-site groundwater attributable to coal ash.

3. Florida Power & Light, Port Everglades Power Plant: Exceedance of one or more standards down flow from the plant’s disposal facility that does not impact drinking water wells offsite.

4. Orlando Utilities, Curtis Stanton Energy Center: For over 20 years, groundwater contamination around the plant’s coal ash landfill and ponds has been well documented. Data shows concentrations of aluminum, chloride, iron, manganese, and sodium five to hundreds of times above FDEP Groundwater and Surface Water Clean-up Target Levels. Surface water samples also exceed FDEP Freshwater Surface Water Quality Criteria.”

5. Seminole Electric Cooperative, Seminole Generating Station: Coal ash ponds and a flue gas desulfurization landfill contaminated groundwater at the property line up to one mile from the landfill. Arsenic and lead exceed federal standards in groundwater by 19 and 10 times, respectively. Deep and shallow aquifers are contaminated far above Florida Clean-Up Target Levels for sulfate, chloride, iron, TDS and boron.

6. Tampa Electric Company, Big Bend Station: Off-site groundwater exceeds federal drinking water standards and Florida Clean-up Target Levels for thallium, sulfate, chloride and manganese. Arsenic in on-site groundwater was measured at 11 times the drinking water standard, and many other pollutants were also measured at levels far above Florida Groundwater Clean-up Target Levels at on-site locations. Thallium was measured in off-site groundwater at more than twice the federal standard, and at groundwater monitoring locations closer to coal ash disposal areas, at 8 times the federal standard.

Lansing Smith ranked 57th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[23] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[24]

Lansing Smith Generating Plant ranked number 57 on the list, with 520,282 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[23]

Elevated levels of toxic hexavalent chromium found at Lansing Smith

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal ash waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In Florida, the Lansing Smith Generating Plant in Southport was reported as having high levels of chromium seeping into drinking water supplies.[25]

According to EPA data, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the Lansing coal waste sites above 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard.[25]

As a press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[26]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[25]


Florida third highest in national toxic air emissions

Residents of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida live in states with the most toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, according to a July 2011 NRDC report, "How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States", based on data from the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (2009 data, accessed June 2011). Florida released nearly 50 million pounds of toxic air pollutants in 2009, with 33.4 million pounds from the electricity sector (68%).

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Nearly half of all the toxic air pollution reported from industrial sources in the United States comes from coal- and oil-fired power plants.
  • Power plants are the single largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

Florida second highest in U.S. CO2 emissions

A 2011 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, "Getting Warmer: US CO2 Emissions from Power Plants Emissions Rise 5.6% in 2010" shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants in the U.S. rose 5.56 percent in 2010 over 2009, the biggest annual increase since the EPA began tracking emissions in 1995. In total, electricity generators released 2.423 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, compared to 2.295 billion tons in 2009. The report is based on data from the EPA’s “Clean Air Markets” website, which tallies emission reports from electric generators.

The 10 worst states for CO2 pollution identified in the report are, in order, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. Texas power plants released nearly 257 million tons of CO2, as much as the next two states - Florida and Ohio - combined, and more than seven times the total CO2 emissions from power plants in California. Texas opened three new coal plants toward the end of 2010, with a combined capacity of 2,156 megawatts.

Coal-fired boilers provided 45 percent of U.S. electricity in 2010, but were responsible for 81 percent of total CO2 emissions from electricity generation in 2010.

Other key report findings include the following:

  • 50 coal-fired power plants accounted for 750 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2010, or about a third of the total. The two largest carbon polluters, the Scherer and Bowen power plants in Georgia, together released more than 48 million tons of CO2 in 2010. By comparison, emissions from all power plants in California were 37.1 million tons; in New York, 40 million tons; and in the six states of New England, 40.5 million tons.
  • Coal-fired generation rose 5.2 percent in the 12 months ending November 30, 2010. Nearly 4.5 gigawatts of new coal-fired electric generation came online in 2010, about half of that in Texas. But power companies have also announced plans to retire almost 12 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity within the next few years, including the announcement in Jan. 2011 that Xcel would close nearly 900 megawatts of coal-fired capacity at four different power stations in Colorado.

Major coal mines

There are no coal mines in Florida.[27]

Citizen groups



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "EIA" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2008 Florida Electricity Profile, Energy Information Administration, March 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Florida Profile: Coal, Electricity, and Renewables" Energy Information Administration, accessed March 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Florida Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed March 2010.
  5. "Burning Coal, Burning Cash" Union of Concerned Scientists' Report, May 18, 2010.
  6. State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, 1994. - cached copy at CoalDiver.org
  7. Governor Crist Sets New Energy and Environmental Agenda for Florida, Florida Solar Energy Center website, July 2007.
  8. "Bluegrass at the bank strikes again!," Mountain Justice Summer, March 20, 2009.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Executive Orders and Partnership Agreements," Florida Department of Environmental Protection, July 13, 2007.
  10. "Florida Releases State Climate Plan: Huge Economic Gains, Redefines National Discussion," SolveClimate, October 15, 2008.
  11. Florida Action Team Final Report, Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, October 15, 2008.
  12. Mark Szakonyi, "Keystone preparing to import South American coal to Jacksonville," Jacksonville Business Journal, January 23, 2009.
  13. "Coal company is biggest giver to Mike Weinstein's PAC" Jacksonville.com, Sep. 6, 2011.
  14. "Progress Energy owes customers refund for coal costs, lawyer says," St. Petersburg Times, February 25, 2009.
  15. Existing U.S. Coal Plants
  16. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Aaron Sharockman, "Progress Energy to close two coal-fired generators in 2020" St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 19, 2008.
  18. "Florida Coal Ash Factsheet" Earthjustice, accessed December 9, 2011.
  19. "Florida Coal Ash Factsheet" Earthjustice, accessed December 9, 2011.
  20. Kevin Spear, "Fears mount on how OUC handles ash from coal plant," Orlando Sentinel, January 25, 2009.
  21. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  22. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  24. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  26. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
  27. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.


Existing coal plants in Florida

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