Steam rises from the cooling stacks at the James H. Miller Jr. coal plant near a neighborhood in West Jefferson, Alabama on April 11, 2021. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images
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A coal plant in Jefferson County, Alabama has topped the list of worst greenhouse gas polluters in the U.S., according to data recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This latest annual recognition is the eighth consecutive time for the notorious Alabama Power facility in Jefferson County, called the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant.
In an analysis by Inside Climate News, reporters found that the plant emitted nearly 22 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2022. The majority of the emissions, about 21 million metric tons, consisted of carbon dioxide.
By comparison, this single plant produces more emissions than several individual countries, including Cambodia, Guatemala and Iceland, according to data from the European Commission.
Teisha Wallace, a spokesperson for Alabama Power, said in a statement that the plant was an essential part of the company’s services, and AL.com reported that Wallace said the company sourced about one-third of the electricity for its customers from clean energy sources, those sources mainly being hydropower and nuclear energy.
“The four units at Miller are among the largest and most efficient in the country,” Wallace wrote in a statement, as reported by Inside Climate News.
Alabama Power’s parent company, Southern Company, has set a goal to transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. It noted its progress, with stats including a 91% decrease in coal units since 2007.
But a report from the Sierra Club found that Southern Company is not on track to meet targets that curb impacts of the climate crisis, and the organization graded Alabama Power with an F for its clean energy transition efforts.
“The utility industry is not moving at the pace that’s necessary to respond to the climate crisis,” Leah Stokes, an energy analyst, said in a statement. “They still don’t have adequate plans to retire dirty coal plants, stop building gas plants, and build new clean energy. That’s what we know they have to do, and they are delaying the clean energy transition.”
Alabama Power is one of several top polluters in the U.S. It is followed by the company Ameren’s Labadie coal power plant in Missouri, which emits 15.9 million metric tons, and the DTE Energy fuel-oil power plant in Monroe, Michigan, which is responsible for 14.9 million metric tons of emissions. The EPA has developed a map that shows top emitters by location and the Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool (FLIGHT) to see all emitters and filter them by sector, facility, location, and other factors.
Although the news of the worst polluters in the U.S. is grim, the EPA’s report did show a little bit of hope. According to the data, emissions from the top polluters in the country had reduced slightly, about 1%, in 2022. In total, the top emitters were responsible for 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year. AL.com reported that the 7,586 industrial facilities in the report make up about half of the country’s emissions.