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Learn About Coal Plants


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Gulf Power's Lansing Smith Plant

Gulf Power’s Lansing Smith Plant

Even though dependence on coal has declined over the past decade, it is still a significant part of our energy mix in our region.

The Southeast is home to roughly 215 utility-owned coal-fired electric generating units at 71 coal plants across 8 Southeastern states (KY, TN, MS, AL, GA, FL, NC, SC). In 2015 alone, these coal plants emitted more than 327 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants comprise one-third of the total national carbon emissions, which in turn contribute to climate-disrupting pollution that causes extreme weather such as drought, floods and superstorms, and leads to sea-level rise.

Historically, coal has been thought of as “cheap power,” but the true cost of coal is extraordinary when we factor in the impacts to human health and the environment. 72% of all toxic water pollution comes from coal-fired power plants, making these plants the number one source of toxic water pollution in the United States. In our region alone, we have over 118 billion gallons of toxic coal ash and wastewater in 450 impoundments, which can collapse and spill catastrophically; many are more slowly contaminating nearby groundwater and surface water. Coal plants also affect water quantity with a typical coal plant consuming 1.1 billion gallons of water per year.

Hazardous air pollution, like sulfur dioxide, from coal-fired power plants can cause asthma, heart disease, respiratory disease and a myriad of other ailments. Overall, pollution from coal plants contributes to four of the top five causes of death in the United States and is responsible for increasing the incidence of major disease in a large portion of the nation’s population. Often, coal plants have been located in communities of color or lower-income communities, forcing these communities to bear the brunt of the negative health impacts of coal plant pollution.

You can learn more about our current efforts to phase out coal-fired power plants in the Southeast on our blog.

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