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May 242011

From Green Right Now Reports

Southern Company, the nation’s fourth largest power company, was named “the United States’ most irresponsible utility” in a report released today by the environmental nonprofit Green America.

Titled “Leadership We Can Live Without: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for Southern Company,” the Green America analysis assigns letter grades to seven major U.S. utilities on four fronts: reliance on coal; pollution; reliance on and expansion of nuclear power; and lobbying expenditures. Southern came in dead last with straight “F” grades in all four of the categories.

The rest of “The Dirty Seven” ranked were (1) Exelon; (2) Entergy; (3) Dominion; (4) TVA; (5) Duke and (6) AEP (Southern Company is 7th).

“Southern Company is one of the nation’s largest utilities, with 4.4 million customers in the American Southeast,” Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen said in a statement. “Southern Company prides itself on its relatively low rates and its consistent payment of dividends to shareholders. But while ratepayers and shareholders may appreciate these limited economic benefits, they come at a high price: the extraordinary pollution produced by Southern Company, which harms the communities it operates in, as well as fueling global warming, and the risks posed by the company’s increasing use of nuclear power and growing coal ash ponds. ”

Larsen said the “real price of Southern Company’s strategy include: asthma, heart disease, lung disease, air and water pollution, global warming, and the potential for catastrophic accidents.”

According to Green America, while many U.S. utilities have major environmental drawbacks, Southern Company stands out as a leader overall in irresponsible practices:

  • Clean Air Task Force data shows that Southern Company’s coal-fired power plants cause 1,224 deaths, 1,710 heart attacks, 20,770 asthma attacks, and 752 cases of chronic bronchitis per year. The total annual cost of all of this damage is over $9 billion.
  • According to CARMA, Carbon Monitoring for Action, Southern Company is one of the top five utility emitters of carbon in the world. Southern Company’s Scherer plant in Georgia emits an astonishing 26 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, making it the biggest power plant emitter of CO2 in the U.S., according to the EPA.
  • Three of Southern Company’s coal plants made Environmental Integrity Project’s top 10 list of most polluting plants in the country for their emissions of NOx, SO2, mercury, and CO2.
  • Southern Company creates enormous demand for coal, which endangers the lives of miners, and puts entire communities at risk from mountain top removal mining.
  • All those coal plants produce vast quantities of toxic waste. Southern Company currently has at least 22 plants that utilize “wet” storage facilities for coal combustion waste — including at least one site that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found has polluted ground and surface waters.
  • Southern Company is taking the lead in building new nuclear power plants in the United States, and the nuclear plants it is planning to use have raised serious safety concerns from an expert at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • According to Open Secrets, Southern Company is the leader amongst highly polluting utilities in spending millions of dollars every year on lobbyists to ensure that the status quo stays in place.

Southern Company’s low ranting tracks with a similar low score on the Newsweek 2010 Green Score list, which ranks the Fortune 500 based on environmental performance. Southern Company ranks 494 out of 500 on the Green Score list. Out of the 32 utility companies included in the rankings, Southern Company ranked 30th in overall Green Score. They were also ranked 30th in the Environmental Impact Score (496th overall).