Alabama Power to shut down coal operations at Greene County and two other plants

According to a press release from Alabama Power, Plant Gorgas, Plant Barry and Plant Greene County will undergo significant changes by 2016.

“Federal environmental mandates are forcing Alabama Power to close two coal-fired generating units at Plant Gorgas and reduce or eliminate the ability to use coal at Plant Barry and Plant Greene County by 2016,” the press release states. “Because of rules tied to federal environmental regulations, Alabama Power will close two smaller coal units at Plant Gorgas in Walker County. Two more units at Plant Barry in Mobile County, will cease using coal but will remain available on a limited basis using natural gas. A third coal unit at Barry will begin using gas, but its capability will not be impacted as significantly as the other two units.”

The Greene County plant will cease using coal altogether, according to the release.

“Another significant change will take place at Plant Greene County, where the company will cease using coal and switch to natural gas,” the release states. “Because of this transition, the plant is expected yo reduce its workforce by about half. The reduction in workforce is expected to be completed through attrition and transfers, avoiding layoffs.”

Alabama Power Vice President of Environmental Affairs Matt Bowden said the federal mandates have placed the company in a difficult position.

“Federal environmental mandates are forcing us to change how we generate electricity for our customers,” he said. “They are putting new restrictions on our ability to provide our customers with the energy they need in a cost-effective manner.”

The release further stated that Alabama Power has spent more than $3 billion in the last decade to meet federal environmental mandates.

“The company is in the process of spending another $1 billion to comply with new federal environmental regulations tied to air emissions,” the release states. “Further spending could be required to meet future federal environmental regulations tied to water, land and coal combustion byproducts. ON top of these regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever rules related to greenhouse gases for existing power plants. If these rules are put in place, the could force the company to make additional costly changes to meet federal mandates.”

Alabama Power furthered its position in the release by citing its record of compliance with federal mandates over the last 18 years.

“Since 1996, Alabama Power has reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by more than 80 percent,” the release reads. “Ongoing projects to add environmental technology on coal units at Plant Gorgas and at Plant Gaston in Shelby County are expected to further reduce emissions.”

While Alabama Power will alter the way in which it generates its product, the company said it is committed to keeping all of its facilities open.

“Although the company is being forced to reduce its use of coal and make other changes, Alabama Power is committed to keeping all its generating facilities open – to the extent doing so is cost-effective for customers,” the release states.

“These facilities are vital to the communities they serve, providing quality jobs and supporting local economies,” Jim Heilbron, senior production officer for Alabama Power, said. “Many of our plants are located in rural communities, which make the jobs they provide even more important. Fuel diversity helps protect customers from price volatility and potential shortages of any one fuel source. Unfortunately, new restrictions on coal expose our customers to these risks, while further hindering our ability to serve our customers in a reliable and cost-effective manner.