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Alabama utility to close Gorgas coal plant in April

February 21, 2019

Alabama Power Company announced Wednesday that it was permanently retiring the William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant in Walker County due to “federally driven environmental mandates.” The facility, usually just called Plant Gorgas, has generated electricity since 1917 on the banks of the Black Warrior River near the town of Parrish, and is currently operating three coal-fired units.

A combination of stricter federal environmental laws, growing concerns about the legacy of coal ash ponds and low natural gas prices since the expansion of fracking techniques in the early 2010s have led to dramatic coal plant retirements in Alabama and across the country.

Jim Heilbron, Alabama Power senior vice president and senior production officer, cited the environmental laws and coal ash concerns in a news release announcing the closure. Heilbron said in the news release that it could take an additional $300 million to operate the plant in compliance with the latest environmental mandates.

Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said that approximately 180 people are currently employed at Plant Gorgas, and that no layoffs are expected. He said some workers will continue on at the site “indefinitely” beyond the closure period and that the activities to close the coal ash pond at Gorgas will take “several years.” Sznajderman said other employees will have opportunities at other Alabama Power facilities, and some longtime employees may elect to retire.

The Alabama Public Service Commission, the state government body charged with regulating Alabama Power and other utilities in the state, issued a statement blaming the closure on former President Barack Obama specifically, and liberals generally.

After Gorgas’s three remaining coal units are retired, Alabama Power will be operating just seven coal-fired generating units at three plants across its entire fleet, down from 23 coal units at its peak. The other units have either been retired or converted to run on natural gas.

More: Alabama Power to shutter coal plant, cites environmental laws

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