Power company: We’re cleaner than the limit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2004

The environmental report bashing Alabama Power’s Greene County Steam Plant is filled with inaccuracies, a company vice president said Wednesday.

Willard Bowers, vice president of environmental affairs for Alabama Power, believes allegations of pollution at the Greene County Steam Plant are “based on the fact that a lawsuit has been filed against Alabama Power and about 15 other utilities across the nation.”

While Bowers did not specifically contend a report called the “Dirty Dozen” was done to spike awareness of the lawsuit, he does believe Alabama Power has lived up to environmental standards placed on the company.

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“We do tests at least once a year to demonstrate that we are within our limit [of pollution],” he said. “We have not failed a test as long as I’ve been here.”

In the Alabama Environmental Council’s report, the Greene County plant is accused of failure to comply with modern clean air requirements.

“Investigations show current violations concerning Nitrogen Oxide and Sulfur Dioxide,” the report said.

For Alabama Power officials, the issue is much deeper than EPA standards of acceptable emissions of chemicals like NOx and SO2.

“We don’t agree with what the report says,” Bowers said. “And [the Alabama Department of Environmental Management] didn’t agree either.”

Every quarter, Alabama Power has to submit data from the Greene County plant which monitors the amount of pollutants emitted from the plant.

According to Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman, the sulfur dioxide emissions at the steam plant are well within emission standards. According to those standards, four pounds of SO2 are allowed for every one million BTUs. At Greene County, only 2.2 pounds are released for every BTU.

“That’s 45 percent lower than what’s allowed,” Sznajderman said.

With Alabama Power’s data — which clearly states the company is within environmental guidelines — and the AEC’s contention that Greene County is a blatant polluter of the area, there must be a catch somewhere. And there is.

Alabama Power is involved in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that revolves around a program called the New Source Review.

As Bowers explained, Alabama Power — from time-to-time — has upgraded some of the older equipment at its plants, including Greene County.

“For instance, we take what’s called an economizer and its purpose is to capture a portion of the waste heat as gas leaves a boiler,” he said. “Then we use that waste heat to pre-heat air that goes back into the boiler.”

On a simpler level, Alabama Power put in place a modification that reduces the amount of waste generated from the fossil fuels that generate power for the plant.

However, the U.S. Department of Justice, following the New Source Review program, believes companies must comply with new environmental regulations once they make a modification to the plant. Obviously, Alabama Power does not agree.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is currently in litigation with the Department of Justice, as well, and Alabama Power’s suit likely will not continue until the TVA case is resolved.

Until then, Bowers said Alabama Power should fall under the same spirit of U.S. law as others who are accused of wrongdoing.

“You’re innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

And as current environmental regulations are defined, Bowers said Alabama Power emits even less pollution than is allowed.