You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

breaking news

New I-85 bridge on schedule, could cost up to $16.6M

President wants to cut emissions; Southern calls for congressional oversight

President Barack Obama on Tuesday imposed the first-ever order for utilities to clean up carbon emissions at existing power plants, a move expected to have a profound impact on Atlanta-based Southern Co. and its large number of coal-fired facilities.

The aggressive plan to combat climate change does not require Congressional approval and likely will take years to put in place. Republicans, the coal industry and utilities already have come out against the measure, saying it could drive up electricity prices for consumers and slow the nation’s economic recovery.

» Southern Co. shareholders press for more solar

“This is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock; it demands our attention now,” Obama said on the campus of Georgetown University, describing why he was bypassing Congress. “And this is my plan to meet it — a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate.”

Southern did not give details on how the plan could impact its utilities, which include Georgia Power. A year ago, Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer and Bowen topped the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of carbon emitters, in part because the plants are some of the largest in the country.

Southern executives have repeatedly said any energy or climate regulation should be left to Congress.

“Congress is best equipped to develop a national energy policy that meets the needs of all sectors of our nation, striking an appropriate balance to protect the environment and ensure energy security,” the company said.

The president’s proposals include boosting the amount of renewable electricity being used on public land and in federally subsidized housing. Doing so would increase business for solar, wind and biomass companies, which have faced a challenging political and economic climate in the Southeast.

“(The president’s plan) highlights the need for Georgia’s leaders to take a practical and serious look at the policies holding the state back from the jobs and investment we could be creating with its enormous solar potential,” said Brion Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Georgia Solar Energy Association and director of business development at Inman Solar.

» Southern Co. exec gets 34 percent pay hike

Curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions is the latest in a string of orders from the Obama administration to help clean up the environment. The others, which include reducing mercury and other air toxins that come from coal-fired plants, are forcing Georgia Power and other utilities to close dozens of coal- and oil-fired units or equip them with pollution controls.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a challenge to another regulation, one that would limit power-plant emissions blowing across state lines. The rule, which requires cuts cuts in nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, could lead to additional power plant closures.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, a Roswell Republican, predicted tougher carbon regulations “will only make fuel and electricity – as well as basic goods and services – more expensive for hardworking Americans.”

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a DeKalb County Democrat, praised the plan and said that it’s appropriate to bypass Congress when it’s “mired in gridlock and unable to move on the important issues of the day, a clean environment being one of them.”

The president’s also called on the country to become more energy efficient. The administration said it will try to work with countries such as China and India — among the world’s top carbon emitters — to reduce pollution worldwide.

The proposals come at a time when Georgia utility regulators are reviewing Georgia Power’s long-term energy plan, which includes closing 15 coal- and oil-fired units. The utility is spending more than $5 billion to install pollution controls to curb sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury at its coal plants.

Separate from that, the utility pledged last year to boost the amount of solar it will distribute to its customers tenfold over the next few years. But its 20-year outlook doesn’t include adding more solar beyond that, angering clean energy and solar advocates.

Georgia Power says it does not need to add any more electricity, including renewable fuels, to its power grid because the utility has nearly twice the amount of excess capacity required by state regulations. Georgia Power also is building two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro that are scheduled to open in 2017 and 2018. Obama mentioned the Vogtle project in his speech as a domestic energy success story.

Southern Co. has reduced the amount of electricity it gets from coal from 70 percent five years to roughly 35 percent today. The company’s Mississippi Power utility touts new technology to capture carbon emissions at its next-generation coal plant in Kemper County.

Yet, the energy giant ranks as the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the United States, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, using 2011 EPA data.

The president campaigned hard to increase renewable energy production and curb carbon emissions during his first term in office, but was unable to pass climate legislation even with Democratic majorities in Congress. The administration has been in a tug-of-war with environmental advocates, who think he’s not doing enough, as well as the energy industry, which says regulations are too restrictive.

One example of that tension is a letter signed by attorneys general in 21 states, including Georgia’s Sam Olens, saying they will sue the EPA if it agrees to settle on new greenhouse gas emissions standards without input from the states.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Business

Nordstrom selling work jeans covered in fake mud for $425 
Nordstrom selling work jeans covered in fake mud for $425 

  After it was ridiculed for selling designer rocks at Christmas, Nordstrom may have topped itself with its latest offer. The department store is offering a pair of jean covered in fake mud for a whopping $425. The retailer described its new Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans on its website as "rugged Americana workwear that's seen some hard-working...
Housing report: Atlanta price gains cool a bit
Housing report: Atlanta price gains cool a bit

Home values in metro Atlanta keep rising, but the pace of increase has fallen behind the national average, according to a much-watched national survey released Tuesday. The average price of a home in the metro area rose 5.6 percent during the past year, compared to a 5.8 percent U.S. average, the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index showed. Case-Shiller...
Airport spends nearly $170k to store useless furniture
Airport spends nearly $170k to store useless furniture

Atlanta airport officials plan to spend up to $168,850 on back payments for storage of old airport furniture that has turned out to be worthless — and another $10,000 to get rid of it. The furniture had long been kept in a basement of the old Georgia International Convention Center near the airport. The city-owned convention center is now...
Southern Company draws shareholder fire on exec pay
Southern Company draws shareholder fire on exec pay

A group of public pension funds and a foundation that hold Southern Company stock are accusing the Atlanta utility’s board of “a decision to shield top executives from the impact of poorly executed key projects,” including the troubled Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion. In an open letter to shareholders, the group urges votes against...
As Atlanta home prices rise, can buyers actually afford them?
As Atlanta home prices rise, can buyers actually afford them?

  The housing market in Atlanta continued to heat up as spring approached, but the pace of increase has fallen behind the national average, according to a much-watched national survey released Tuesday.  The average price of a home in the metro area rose 5.6 percent during the past year, compared to a 5.8 percent U.S. average, according...
More Stories