Scherer Steam Generating Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Scherer Steam Electric Generating Station is a 3,564.0-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station operated by Georgia Power, a division of Southern Company near Juliette, Georgia.


The plant's location is along the flight path of many commercial airline flights originating from or terminating at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, and is a prominent feature on the landscape, easily visible during daylight flights.

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Plant Data

Unit 4 Retirement

According to the 10 year site plan of FPL and Gulf Power (2020-2029), FPL was expected to retire its 76.4% ownership of unit 4 by January 2022. [5][10] JEA, the owner of the remaining 23.6% of unit 4, revealed a deal with FPL to also retire its share in 2022. JEA would replace the capacity of unit 4 with a PPA for power from FPL's natural gas generators for 10 years, with the option to switch to solar generation for another 10 years.[6]

Unit 4 reportedly stopped operating on December 31, 2021. The unit's power was replaced by fossil gas.[8]


The plant has four units, each rated at 891 megawatts (MW) and producing 880 MW. It has two 1001-foot chimneys, the first built in 1982 and the second in 1986. Scherer is the fifth largest electric generating plant in the United States.

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 25,298,499 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 74,205 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 17,365 tons
  • 2008 Mercury Emissions: 1,589 lb.

Coal Waste Site

Health impacts of waste site

In April 2012, CNN reported that a number of residents near the plant had numerous health problems, including nose bleeds, muscle twictches, dementia, cancer, and diseased organs. CNN confirmed at least two houses across from the plant have been bought by Georgia Power, while another 10 owners of nearby houses claim Georgia Power representatives have approached them with offers to purchase their property. Almost immediately after Georgia Power purchased the second home, the company sealed the on-site water well. A hair sample of one nearby resident showed 68 parts per million uranium, traced to a water well on her property. Hair testing revealed that another Juliette resident, Jamie Worley, had high concentrations of uranium in his hair. Worley developed liver cancer and died, although it's unclear whether the uranium triggered the cancer. Residents suspect the plant led to the uranium, as uranium is heavily concentrated in coal ash, and Plant Scherer produces hundreds of acres of coal ash per year. The waste is stored in a 900-acre unlined pond surrounding the plant. Residents want Georgia Power to line the ash pond to better protect water supplies.[11]

Environmental and health impacts of plant

Wrongful death lawsuit

In January 2023, a Georgia man filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power for the wrongful death of his daughter, claiming that she contracted breast and brain cancer due to coal ash toxins from the Scherer Steam Generation Station poisoning her home water well, which was in close proximity to the coal plant.[12]

Fine particle pollution from Scherer Station

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.[13] 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.[14]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Scherer Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 180 $1,300,000,000
Heart attacks 240 $27,000,000
Asthma attacks 3,000 $150,000
Hospital admissions 120 $2,900,000
Chronic bronchitis 110 $48,000,000
Asthma ER visits 180 $66,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Scherer ranked 1st in global warming emissions

According to a 2009 report by Environment America, "America's Biggest Polluters," the Scherer Generating Station is the dirtiest plant in the nation, releasing 27.2 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2007. Ranking is based upon Environmental Protection Agency data.[15] It was also ranked the 20th in the world in terms of carbon dioxide emissions by the Center for Global Development on its list of global power plants in November 2007. It was the only power plant in the United States that was listed in the world's top 25 Carbon Dioxide producers.[16]

In January 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new website that identifies most of the nation's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Two Southern Company coal plants near Atlanta are identified as the biggest contributors to U.S. global greenhouse gases - the Scherer Steam Generating Station in Juliette and Plant Bowen west of Cartersville, respectively - with a third Southern plant in Alabama identified as the third-biggest emitter, the Miller Steam Plant in Quinton.[17]

Scherer pumped out nearly 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.[17]

Scherer ranked 4th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

Georgia, Coal and Carbon.

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[18] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[19]

Scherer Steam Generating Station ranked number 4 on the list, with 4,114,502 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[18]

Scherer ranked 3rd in terms of mercury emissions

A 2010 report by the Environmental Integrity Project using EPA data found that Scherer is the 3rd worst mercury polluter in the United States, emitting 1,589 pounds of mercury in 2008, the most recent year for data, up from 1,582 pounds in 2007, a .44 percent increase.[20]

Coal trains

The coal used at the Scherer plant comes from Wyoming's Powder River Basin, and is delivered by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad from the mine to Memphis, Tennessee. From there, it is taken to the plant by Norfolk Southern in unit trains of up to 124 cars. Currently, at least three and as many as five trains a day are unloaded at Scherer. The trains use an air-dump system and are unloaded from the bottom of the cars while passing over the unloading trestle. They do not stop while unloading, and are usually unloaded in around 90 minutes.[citation needed]

Legislative issues

House Bill 276, proposed by Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), would put a 5-year moratorium on building new coal plants and eliminate the burning of Appalachian coal mined by mountaintop removal by mid-2016. The Appalachian Mountain Preservation Act would gradually prohibit Georgia coal consumers from using Central Appalachian mountaintop removal beginning in 2011. The bill is backed by environmental groups including Appalachian Voices but received strong opposition from POWER4Georgians, a coalition of 10 electric co-operatives seeking to build a $2 billion 850-megawatt supercritical coal plant in Washington County.[21][22]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Jointly Owned Plants as of Dec 31 2018", accessed June 2020
  2. "Generating Facilities" accessed June 2020
  3. "Facilities", accessed June 2020
  4. "Electric Facilities" accessed June 2020
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Ten Year Power Plant Site Plan 2020 – 2029", page 22, accessed May 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "JEA plans to retire ownership in Georgia coal-fired power plant", June 26, 2020
  7. "EIA 923 March 2020" EIA 923 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "JEA closes coal-fired power plant, reducing the utility’s carbon footprint," WJCT News, January 7, 2022
  9. "Southern Co. plans to retire, repower fossil-fueled plants". Retrieved 2021-12-22.
  10. "Florida Power wants out of the biggest coal plant in the U.S.", April 9, 2020.
  11. John Sepulvado, "A power plant, cancer and a small town's fears," CNN Radio, April 1, 2012.
  12. "Monroe County man suing Georgia Power for wrongful death of his daughter," WGXA News, January 26, 2023.
  13. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  14. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  15. "America's Biggest Polluters: Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants in 2007" Environment America, November 24, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 David Ibata, "Study: Southern Company plants are 3 biggest greenhouse gas emitters" Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 11, 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  19. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  20. "Dirty Kilowatts: America's Top 50 Power Plant Mercury Polluters" EIP Report, March 2010.
  21. "Georgia bill proposes moratorium on new coal plants," Reuters, February 4, 2009.
  22. Margaret Newkirk, "Bill would restrict coal power plants," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 4, 2009.

Related articles

External Articles

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