Southern Company, one of the nation’s top emitters of carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, will be the beneficiary of federal funding and loan guarantees to build a 582-megawatt coal-fired power plant and a 48-square-mile lignite coal mine. The mine would operate up to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and would be constructed on prime farmland, destroying hundreds of miles of streams and sensitive wetlands in one of Mississippi’s poorest counties.
While Southern Company touts its Kemper proposal as an “advanced” coal project, the plant will not be required to capture or sequester its carbon dioxide emissions, which will be approximately 5.7 million tons per year. The plant would also emit thousands of tons of toxic air pollutants every year, including ozone-forming nitrogen oxide, soot-forming sulfur dioxide, lung-damaging particulate matter, sulfuric acid mist, diesel exhaust, mercury and lead.
Despite these serious environmental and public health consequences, the proposal is slated to receive $293 million dollars under the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative program and additional support in federal loan guarantees that could cover loans of nearly $2 billion, plus millions of dollars in tax breaks. The DOE’s decision to invest billions in risky technology is inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s stated commitment to invest in clean energy technologies and is also contrary to the administration’s stated commitment to environmental justice. Earthjustice is challenging the government’s investment in the Kemper project.