Three power plants owned by Southern Co. top the list of U.S. coal-fired sources of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, according to rankings released today by an environmental group.
The Atlanta-based utility's Plant Scherer in Georgia topped the list, emitting about 27 million tons of CO2 annually in 2007, according to the report released today by Environment America. The James H. Miller Jr. Plant in Alabama was the No. 2 emitter, followed by Plant Bowen in Georgia.
Southern Co. is working to diversify its fuel portfolio and invest in environmental controls, spokeswoman Valerie Hendrickson said.
The utility has spent more than $500 million in environmental research and development over the past decade, Hendrickson said, and between now and 2020, the company plans to spend $1 billion on energy efficiency and demand-control programs to reduce peak demand by an additional 1,000 megawatts.
Overall, U.S. power plants released 2.56 billion tons of CO2 in 2007 -- about one-third of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the report says. Coal-fired power plants produce two-thirds of U.S. fossil fuel electricity and emit more than 80 percent of fossil fuel-related greenhouse gases, according to the study.
The analysis used 2007 data, from U.S. EPA's acid rain program, which tracks pollution data from 1,200 of the nation's power plants. The 2007 data are the most recent finalized data set. Electric utilities have reported their CO2 emissions under the program since 1995.
Georgia, Alabama and Indiana are home to the plants with the highest carbon emissions, the report says. Those states, in addition to Texas, Michigan and Arizona, have power plants that each emitted more than 20 million tons of CO2 in 2007.
Texas led the nation in CO2 emissions from power plants, the report says, followed by Ohio, Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
The nation's oldest power plants are some of the biggest emitters, the report says. Plants built before 1980 produced 73 percent of the total global warming pollution from power plants in 2007.
"We found that America's power is both decades old and dangerously polluting, the oldest and dirtiest power plants often going hand in hand," said Courtney Abrams, global warming associate at Environment America.
The group called on EPA to move forward with plans to regulate CO2 emissions from coal plants and other large industrial facilities and for Congress to pass strong global warming legislation to cut CO2 emissions by 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and by at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the utility industry group Edison Electric Institute, said the U.S. power sector is expecting requirements to significantly cut its greenhouse gas emissions. EEI would support legislation requiring a 80 percent emissions cut by 2050, he said.
Click here to read the report.
Correction: EEI would support a bill calling for an 80 percent cut by 2050.