David M. Ratcliffe

From Global Energy Monitor

David M. Ratcliffe has been chairman, president, and chief executive officer of the Southern Company since 2004. Southern Company is the second largest producer of coal-fired energy in the United States.[1] Prior to heading Southern, Ratliffe was CEO of its largest subsidiary Georgia Power, starting in 1999. Prior to running Georgia Power, Ratcliffe was CEO of Mississippi Power, another Southern Company subsidiary.[2]

Ratcliffe joined Georgia Power in 1971 as a biologist, coordinating environmental monitoring and compliance programs in and around power plants. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from Valdosta State University in 1970 and his law degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in 1975.[2]


Ratcliffe is a member of the following boards:[2]

  • Edison Electric Institute (Director) (Vice Chair; Chair Elect 6/2008-6/2009)
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (Director 2002-2007; Chair, 2004-2006)
  • CSX Transportation (Director)
  • Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
  • Georgia Chamber of Commerce (Chair, 2005)
  • Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
  • Georgia Research Alliance (Chair, 2005-2006)
  • Woodruff Arts Center (Trustee; Chair, 2004 Campaign)


In May 2007, Forbes listed Ratcliffe as receiving $3.67 million in total compensation for the latest fiscal year, with a three-year total compensation of $13.18 million. He ranked 25th on the list of CEOs in the Utilities industry, and 349th among all CEOs in the United States.[3]

Ratcliffe Profiled in Rolling Stone Magazine

In the January 2010 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, journalist Tim Dickinson profiled the top 17 United States "polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming". Below is an excerpt from the article titled "Climate Killers" about David M. Ratcliffe.[4]

Ratcliffe, the head of America's second-dirtiest electric utility, has assembled an army of 63 lobbyists — almost twice as many as any other company — to defeat climate legislation. It's a pro-carbon dream team, anchored by Jeffrey Holmstead of Rudy Giuliani's law firm, who worked on behalf of utilities like Southern as a top clean-air official under George W. Bush. The reason for the lobbying blitz: Southern burns a lot of coal — its largest plant produces more carbon pollution than all of Brazil's power plants combined — and new limits on emissions being considered by the Senate could cost the utility some $400 million a year. That's why Ratcliffe continues to deny the reality of global warming: "I don't believe there's an impending catastrophe," he says, insisting that the environment will simply "adapt to changing realities."
"The value of his stock trumps everything," says Carl Pope, head of the Sierra Club. "It's hard to imagine a more cynical attitude. But no doubt he genuinely sees it that way — his bottom line is the measure of the world."[4]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Southern Company coal plants

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[5] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[6]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Southern Company coal plants

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 1,224 $8.9 billion
Heart attacks 1,710 $186.3 million
Asthma attacks 20,770 $1.1 million
Hospital admissions 871 $19.8 million
Chronic bronchitis 752 $333.5 million
Asthma ER visits 1,255 $0.5 million

Source: "Health Impacts - annual - of Existing Plants," Clean Air Task Force Excel worksheet, available under "Data Annex" at "Death and Disease from Power Plants," Clean Air Task Force. Note: This data includes the following plants owned by Southern Company and subsidiaries Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power, and Savannah Electric & Power: Barry, Gaston, Gorgas, Greene County, Miller (Alabama Power); Bowen, Hammond, Harllee Branch, Jack McDonough, Mitchell, Scherer, Wansley, Yates (Georgia Power); Crist, Lansing Smith, Scholz (Gulf Power); Jack Watson and Victor J. Daniel Jr. (Mississippi Power); Kraft, McIntosh (Savannah Electric & Power).

Proposed coal plants


  • Kemper Project (Mississippi) - sponsored by Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power


Existing coal-fired power plants

Southern owned 68 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 26,610 MW of capacity - making it the biggest coal energy producer in the U.S. Here is a list of Southern's coal power plants:[7][8][9]

11 of these plants, totalling 16,071 MW of generation, are among the nation's dirtiest in terms of SO2 emissions. In 2006, Southern's 22 coal-fired power plants emitted 165.9 million tons of CO2 (2.75% of all U.S. CO2 emissions) and 1,150,000 tons of SO2 (7.67% of all U.S. SO2 emissions).[1]

Plant Name State County Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions
Scherer GA Monroe 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989 3564 MW 25,300,000 tons 74,205 tons
Bowen GA Bartow 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975 3499 MW 20,500,000 tons 206,442 tons
Miller AL Jefferson 1978, 1985, 1989, 1991 2822 MW 20,600,000 tons 53,379 tons
Gaston AL Shelby 1960, 1961, 1962, 1974 2013 MW 12,200,000 tons 130,494 tons
Wansley GA Heard 1976, 1978 1904 MW 11,900,000 tons 96,200 tons
Barry AL Mobile 1954, 1959, 1969, 1971 1771 MW 12,800,000 tons 52,621 tons
Harllee Branch GA Putnam 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969 1746 MW 7,551,000 tons 95,990 tons
Yates GA Coweta 1950, 1952, 1957, 1958, 1974 1487 MW 6,095,000 tons 75,476 tons
Gorgas AL Walker 1951, 1952, 1956, 1958, 1972 1417 MW 8,258,000 tons 81,268 tons
Crist FL Escambia 1959, 1961, 1970, 1973 1135 MW 5,737,000 tons 35,614 tons
Victor J. Daniel MS Jackson 1977, 1981 1000 MW 9,094,000 tons 31,767 tons
Hammond GA Floyd 1954, 1955, 1970 953 MW 4,098,000 tons 40,579 tons
Jack Watson MS Harrison 1968, 1973 750 MW 5,075,000 tons 29,113 tons
Jack McDonough GA Cobb 1963, 1964 598 MW 3,213,000 tons 28,835 tons
Greene County AL Greene 1965, 1966 568 MW 3,760,000 tons 37,863 tons
Lansing Smith FL Bay 1965, 1967 340 MW 3,792,000 tons 48,776 tons
Birchwood VA King George 1996 258 MW 1,642,000 tons N/A
Kraft GA Chatham 1958, 1961, 1965 208 MW 1,357,000 tons 4,658 tons
McIntosh GA Effingham 1979 178 MW 1,176,000 tons 5,713 tons
Mitchell GA Dougherty 1964 163 MW 443,000 tons 4,938 tons
Gadsden AL Etowah 1949 138 MW 733,000 tons 10,062 tons
Scholz FL Jackson 1953 98 MW 531,000 tons 5,920 tons


  1. 1.0 1.1 Existing U.S. Coal Plants
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Chief Executive Officer, Southern Company, accessed November 2008.
  3. CEO Compensation: #349 David M Ratcliffe, Forbes.com, May 3, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The Climate Killers" Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone Magazine, January 2010.
  5. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  6. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  7. "Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005", Energy Information Administration website, accessed April 2008.
  8. Environmental Integrity Project, Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, July 2007.
  9. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed Aug. 2008.

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