Miller Steam Plant

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Miller Steam Plant on September 17, 2005

The James H. Miller Jr Electric Generating Plant (also known as Plant Miller or Miller Steam Plant) is a large coal-fired electric generating plant owned and operated by Alabama Power near the confluence of Village Creek and the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in the vicinity of West Jefferson. The plant is one of the nation's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for 19,247,050 metric tons of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants in 2015.

The facility went into service with the completion of the first of four 705.5 megawatt generating units in 1978. It was named for then-Alabama Power executive James H. Miller Jr. Additional units were brought on-line in 1985, 1989 and 1991. The plant's current capacity is 2,640,000 kilowatts. During 2006 the plant produced 21,658,406 megawatt-hours of electrical power. The plant burns sub-bituminous coal along with natural gas and fuel oil to produce steam which powers its electrical generating units. The plant's large cooling towers, sometimes mistaken for nuclear plant cooling towers, are visible from as far away as Bluff Park and the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. The plant employs about 345 full-time workers along with hundreds of short-term contract workers during maintenance shut-downs.

In 2001 the United States Environmental Protection Agency filed a claim that two of the units at the Miller Steam Plant fell under the "New Source Review" requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act. On April 25, 2006, after a protracted legal battle, the parties announced a partial settlement. Under a consent decree, Alabama Power installed flue gas desulfurization devices, purchased and retired $4.9 million of SO2 allowances, and expanded the use of selective catalytic reduction technology to year-round, with the aim of reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by 27,000 tons per year. The estimated cost for complying with the decree was over $200 million.

According to a July 2007 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Plant Miller emitted 23,466,022 tons of carbon dioxide gas in 2006, ranking second in the United States for emissions and 126th in emissions per MWh of electricity generated. The plant also emitted 21,237 tons of nitrogen oxide and 53,379.5 tons of sulfur dioxide, ranking 30th and 45th respectively in total output for those pollutants. Its 1,595 pounds of mercury emissions ranked third in total amount, and 32nd by rate. Plant Miller's 40,569 tons of total atmospheric releases in 2010 was more than twice that of the next biggest polluter in Jefferson County.

By 2015 the added technologies had reduced the total output of atmospheric pollutants by more than half. The volume of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, responsible for contributing to the greenhouse effect and to ground-level ozone (smog), was less affected.

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