Pollution from Alabama Power’s coal-fired power plant in Greene County, Ala., contributes to between 49 and 100 premature deaths a year, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project. The cost to society from those deaths is up to three times higher than the value of the electricity produced by the plant, according to EIP calculations. EIP worked with Boston University School of Public Health professor Dr. Jonathan Levy to produce the report, which used computer models similar to those used by the Environmental Protection Agency to predict the dispersion and the health impact of pollutants. When weighing the cost against the benefit of a regulation, EPA uses a value for human life. The EIP study used the same value in its calculations.
The plant in Greene County received attention because it ranked in the top 50 in sulfur dioxide emissions among plants without modern pollution controls. The Greene County plant also was among the 18 plants nationwide where the value of the electricity generated was less than the cost incurred because of premature deaths attributable to the plant’s pollution, according to EIP’s calculations. Alabama Power Co. has spent $1.7 billion installing scrubbers on plants in the Birmingham metro area and in Mobile. It was reported that the Greene County plant hasn’t received those upgrades.
According to an Alabama Power spokesman, Michael Sznajderman, the company is considering its options at the plant. Forthcoming environmental regulations likely will force changes at plants that haven’t received the modern pollution controls. Some older coal-fired units are being converted to natural gas. Mr. Sznajderman had this to say about the situation:
We are still examining our other units based on the oncoming suite of environmental regulations, some of which we still don’t have final rules. Various options may shift depending how the rules come out, the final deadlines, and the costs for various options.
This report should cause enough concern for the bosses at Alabama Power for them to take action. I believe that they will do so because of the potential for harm that appears to exist.
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