The Florida Clean Power Coalition (FCPC)

The Florida Clean Power Coalition works to improve human health and the environment through reducing air pollution from electric power plants and increasing energy efficiency and clean renewable resources.

We burn the fossilized remains of the dinosaur era in the form of coal, oil and natural gas to heat our water and chill our lemonade. In creating electricity, power plants cause significant air pollution. Power plants built in the 1940's through the 1970's cause a grossly disproportionate amount of our air pollution because of a loophole in clean air policy.

Ten of Florida's 1997 "Dirty Dozen" power plants benefit from that loophole. Florida’s dirtiest power plants for 1997 are:

big bend.gif (46344 bytes)

Teco's Big Bend - #1 dinosaur

             Excess tons: NOx 31,764
                                   SO2 84,491

            Excess tons: NOx 32,345
                                   SO2 86,226

             Excess tons: NOx 27,648
                                   SO2 56,674

             Excess tons: NOx 4,802
                                   SO2 52,835

              Excess tons: NOx 7,023
                                    SO2 30,062*

              Excess tons: NOx 13,256
                                    SO2 23,220

Excess tons: NOx 7,178
                                         SO2 19,829

                  Excess tons: NOx 7,479
                                         SO2 21,258

                   Excess tons: NOx 17,264
                                         SO2 10,255

                     Excess tons: NOx 2,676
                                           SO2 21,265

                        Excess tons: NOx 4,256
                                               SO2 19,310

                         Excess tons: NOx 4,083
                                               SO2 19,157

[Based on excess emissions in 1997 over new plant equivalents. * incomplete reporting]

Power plants create an environmental footprint second to no other industry in the world, causing acid rain, fine particulates (soot), ozone and haze by emitting sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air -- worsening such problems as increased asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, damage to estuaries, lakes, fish and aquatic plants, and harm to valuable agricultural and forest resources.

These twelve dirty dozen dinosaurs are responsible for two-thirds of all Florida’s power plant NOx, almost 90% of all power plant SO2 and three-fourths of all power plant carbon dioxide (CO2) -- a greenhouse gas. In Florida, the dozen power plants most responsible for each pollutant contribute about 32% of all NOx and 84% of all permitted SO2 produced in the state. About 97% of all Florida’s SO2 and 39% of all NOx come from power plants. This report measures how dirty a power plant is in two ways: (1) which power plants produced the most pollutants (in tons per year) (Figs. 1 & 2); and (2) which ones produced pollution at

the highest rate in relation to the amount of electricity produced (in mwh) (Figs. 3 & 4):

All this pollution is currently legal because of a large loophole in the 1970 federal Clean Air Act and its 1977 amendments. It allowed not only existing plants, but those under construction (some not completed until the late 1970's) to be exempt from strict pollution standards for new sources. Electric companies (utilities) convinced Congress that existing power plants, with an expected life of 25-30 years, would soon retire and it would be a waste to retrofit them with pollution control equipment.

Although the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required some reductions of SO2 and NOx, older plants still pollute at four to ten times that of new plants. Most of those old plants are still running today, and are typically only 50% as efficient as new plants. Florida’s oldest power plant dates from 1945. The following plants are either totally or partially exempt from basic clean air standards (Table 1):

 Table 1:  Loopholed Power Plants/Units




Plant Name

# Exempt/

Total Units

Fuel Used

SO2 lbs /mmBtu

NOx lbs /mmBtu


Cape C.














































































Big Bend

















New Std.









Although these old plants can honestly claim they comply with applicable air pollution standards, the standards applied to exempt plants are very limited and much weaker than standards for new plants, covering only particulates (soot) and SO2 (under 1990 acid rain requirements). In addition, because these old plants are so inefficient, their output of pollutants is significant in relation to the amount of electricity they produce.

If Florida’s six old coal plants (18 individual units) and ten old oil plants (23 units) eliminated their excess emissions to match today’s new plants, the state could reduce its total air pollution burden of SO2 by almost 65% (442,000 tons) and of NOx by 20% (143,500 tons) per year. ( See Fig. 5). Coal plants are the primary cause of excess pollution because oil-fired plants usually cost too much to run continuously.










 Florida’s power plant pollution levels are some of the highest in the nation. A recent study ranked Florida 10th in the nation in NOx pollution, 8th in SO2 pollution, and 5th in CO2. Florida’s dirtiest power plants, Big Bend, Crystal River and Gannon consistently ranked high amongst the Dirtiest 100 Plants.

Florida electric utilities' track record on reducing emissions is an improving but slow and uneven one. While NOx emissions decreased from 1996 to 1997, emissions of SO2 and carbon dioxide (CO2) increased. (Figs. 6a, 6b, 6c).

The increases may be attributed to increased electric production in 1997, but they may also result from increased use of dirtier plants.

Electric utilities often blame automobiles for air pollution problems, arguing that pollution from driving cars is much greater than from power plants. In fact, the pollution from power plants is significant in comparison to car pollution. Florida's six largest electric utilities emitted as much NOx in 1997 as ten million cars -- almost all the cars registered in the state! (Table 2). Florida's dirty dozen power plants produced as much NOx in 1997 as almost nine million of those cars (Table 3).

While it is difficult to grasp what thousands of tons of air pollution means, picture the world's largest cruise ship, the Grand Princess, which weighs 109,000 tons. It would take the weight of three Grand Princess cruise ships to equal Florida's largest utilities' NOx emissions and more than six cruise ships to equal their SO2 emissions.


The Unlevel Playing Field

Old power plants, especially coal-fueled ones, have lower capital and operating costs because of little to no investment in pollution equipment. This cost advantage amounts to a public subsidy because it imposes unaccounted for costs on the state and on all of us in increased health problems and costs, natural resource damage and reduced investment in newer, cleaner and more efficient energy resources.

Electric companies that produce (generate) power have been regulated as monopolies for the past sixty years. Now the electric power industry is in the process of a permanent transformation from regulated monopoly to a competitive market for electric generation. Retail electric competition will allow all consumers to choose their power supplier similar to how we now choose a long distance phone service. This fundamental change offers the challenge to set the right environmental framework in place to foster environmental benefits.

In a retail electric competition world, electric suppliers that want to compete successfully will have a tremendous incentive to keep costs low and increase profits. They will keep old, cheap-to-operate plants running longer and even increase their output. Electric utilities are already seeking to use cheaper, mostly dirtier, fuels in power plants, including petroleum coke (an oil waste) and orimulsion (a tar-based oil product). This means higher pollution levels for a longer time. Florida utilities have no announced plans to retire the vast majority of old plants. Even the 1945 plant is not scheduled to retire until 2011; if it were a person, it would be eligible for Social Security in 2007!




Health Effects

Air pollution kills more than 40,000 people a year in the U.S. -- as much as traffic accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. The health of millions of Floridians is put at risk by breathing ozone, acid aerosols, fine particles and toxics. Other emissions, like mercury, attack people through the aquatic food chain. Ozone, formed from NOx, is a highly corrosive invisible gas that burns through lung tissue; children are most at risk. Fine particles (soot) from power plants are breathed deep into the lungs and are trapped, causing pre-mature death and increased respiratory problems. Asthma is aggravated by air pollution and has become an epidemic, increasing 75% from 1980 to 1994. It is now the reason children miss the most school days.

Ecosystem Impacts

Acid from sulfur dioxide emissions increases the release of large doses of toxic metals from soils into water bodies and aquatic animals. Nitrogen oxides contribute to nitrification of waters; about 25-30% of nitrogen loading to Tampa Bay is from atmospheric sources. These impacts are felt by Florida's fisheries, which are a significant economic as well as environmental resource. More than $3 billion was spent in-state on recreational fishing activities in 1996. Florida's agricultural resources are also harmed by air pollution; current ozone levels can reduce crop productivity by 10%. Air pollution also harms forest resources and can slow or eliminate tree growth and cause unchecked growth of undesirable plant species.

Mercury , emitted by coal plants, is a special problem because it attacks the central nervous system and is accumulated in the food chain from fish to wildlife and to people who eat fish. Florida has the highest number of mercury-based advisories against eating fish in the Southeast -- 95 -- a 30% increase between 1993 and 1996. Power plants are a primary contributor to mercury pollution. [A listing of freshwater health advisories is available at: http://fcn.state.fl.us/gfc/fishing/health].

Global Warming

Floridians also must not ignore global warming. Even companies like British Petroleum and Toyota have begun to admit there's a real problem and that we better take action now to prevent serious problems. Temperature increases and sea level rise are already occurring. Incidence of infectious disease could increase. With so much low-lying coastal area so heavily populated, Florida must exercise caution. Florida electric utilities produced more than 120 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 1997, a primary "greenhouse gas" contributor to global warming (Fig. 7). Some power plants produced CO2 at rates far in excess of the new plant equivalent of 880 lbs/mwh. (Fig. 8).

Total emissions by Florida's largest producers of power plant CO2 equaled the emissions of more than 13 million cars (Table 4).








Table 4










A word about nuclear power: While this report focuses primarily on air pollution, it is important to note that nuclear power is NOT the answer to global warming and air pollution problems. Nuclear plant construction costs are exorbitant as are plant de-commissioning costs associated with "safe" disposal of highly radioactive materials and wastes. Florida’s three nuclear plants (at Crystal River, St. Lucie and Turkey Point) add about 55 tons per year to the existing store of high level nuclear waste currently stored at each plant.


Fortunately, Florida is in a unique position to benefit from the use of alternate technologies such as solar energy and from energy efficiency. Floridians spend more than $20 billion a year on fuels. None of that fuel is produced in-state, which means our fuel dollars spent to run power plants have few, if any, local economic benefits. State policies supporting solar resources and energy efficiency are on the books, but are not aggressively implemented.

Meanwhile, Floridians have some of the highest electricity bills in the nation because of our almost exclusive dependence on electricity to run our homes and businesses. Aggressive use of energy efficiency measures could significantly reduce the amount of electric energy Floridians use. Bringing clean energy technology manufacturers and energy efficiency services and technologies to Florida could create 2-5 times the number of jobs as power plants for each unit of energy produced or saved and could move Florida into 21st century clean renewable energy sources. We could not only grow our domestic market for solar technologies, but are well suited to serve as the export center to growing world markets in the Caribbean and Latin America.


Clean up old, dirty power plants. By the year 2000, all plants must meet modern emission standards for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide currently met by newer power plants (1.5 lbs per megawatt hour for NOx and 3.0 lbs per megawatt hour for SO2).

Set strict limits on emissions of mercury for all power plants. There are no limits on power plant emissions of mercury. Power plants should be required to reduce mercury emissions significantly.

Set strict limits on emissions of carbon dioxide for all power plants. There are currently no limits on power plant emissions of CO2. Standards are needed to require power plants to reduce CO2 emissions to a level consistent with a cautious approach to global warming.

Ensure that any electric industry restructuring encourages "green power." Any move towards retail competition at the federal level must include mechanisms to ensure deployment of clean renewable resources and energy efficiency technologies.


We must eliminate the loophole enjoyed by Florida’s old fossil plants for too many years and encourage cost effective solutions to meet new clean air standards. Utilities can take steps at each old dirty plant to come into compliance with modern standards. Pollution control equipment, fuel-switching to cleaner natural gas or retiring obsolete units are options. If all old plants, nationwide, are held to the same standard, none will have the "dirty is cheap" advantage.

In order to reduce harmful power plant pollution and remove unfair subsidies that keep cleaner energy resources from being developed, federal policy makers must resolve to end the clean air exemptions given to older power plants. New power plants must meet performance standards that are four to ten times stricter than old plants. It's time to put "term limits" on the loopholes and phase them out quickly.

We must, as citizens and government, continue to expand efforts to encourage clean energy technologies like solar energy and energy efficiency alternatives to dirty dinosaur power supplies. We need to make sure these dinosaurs become extinct!

Copyright 1998 by The Miami Herald. Reprinted with permission.


American Lung Assn., "Health Effects of Outdoor Air Pollution," 1990.

Biondo, Brenda, "Can We Afford Clean Air?" Solar Industry Jl., 1/97.

Breathtaking: Premature Mortality Due to Particulate Air Pollution in 239 American Cities, Natural Resources Defense Council, 5/96.

Clean Air Act Title V applications filed by electric utilities with, and permits issued by, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Contaminated Catch: the Public Health Threat from Toxics in Fish, Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/98.

Creating an Energy Efficient Sector for the Florida Economy: Success Strategies for Economic Development, Project for an Energy Efficient Florida, 3/96.

Dickey, Jefferson H., M.D., "No Room to Breath: Particulate Air Pollution and Excess Mortality," Physicians for Social Responsibility.

FERC Form 1, forms filed by investor-owned electric utilities for 1997 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 4/98.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 1996 Air Quality Report, 1997.

Greening, Holly et al., "Contribution of Atmospheric Deposition to Nitrogen and Toxic Materials Loadings to Tampa Bay,"

Proceedings, Tampa Bay Area Scientific Information Symposium 3, 1997.

"Health Effects of Outdoor Air Pollution," 153 American Jl. of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine 3-50, 1996.

International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), U.S. Communities Acting to Protect the Climate, 1997. (www.iclei.org/co2).

ICLEI, "Fact Sheet: the Economic Power of Energy Efficiency."

Izaak Walton League of America, Air Pollution: the Invisible Thief of American Agriculture, 1990.

Korrick, Susan A. et al., "Effects of Ozone and Other Pollutants on the Pulmonary Function of Adult Hikers," Environmental Health Perspectives 106, 2/98.

Longstreth, Janice, "Potential Health Effects of Global Environmental Change in the U.S.," Waste Policy Institute, 1997.

Moore, Curtis, Dying Needlessly: Sickness and Death Due to Energy-Related Air Pollution, Renewable Energy Policy Project, 2/97.

Morgan, Rick, Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Clean Air. EPA Office of Air and Radiation, Acid Rain Division, 12/93.

OTAG Control Technologies & Options Workgroup, "Cost-effectiveness of Power Plant NOx Controls" Final Report 4/96.

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"Smokestacks and Smoke Screens: Big Polluters, Big Profits, and the Fight for Cleaner Air in Florida," Environmental Working Group, 5/97.

Ten-Year Site Plans 1998, filed by Florida Electric Utilities with Florida Public Service Commission 4/98.

Turn Up the Heat on Dirty Power: Why Power Plants Must Reduce Their Mercury Pollution, Clean Air Network, 3/98.

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States (see www.cia.doe.gov).

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U.S. EPA, 1997 Emissions Scorecard, Acid Rain Program (www.epa.gov/acidrain/score97).

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U.S. EPA, "Climate Change and Florida," Office of Policy, Planning & Evaluation, 9/97.

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The Florida Clean Power Coalition (FCPC) gratefully acknowledges and thanks the Educational Foundation of America, the Energy Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Turner Foundation for their generous support in making this report possible.

The FCPC includes the following organizations which are responsible for publication of this report:

Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF)

Contact: Steve Murchie Contact: Gail Kamaras

Mercede Executive Plaza 1114 Thomasville Road, Suite E

1804-C North University Drive Tallahassee, Florida 32303-6290

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33322 (850) 681-2591

(954) 563-6112 e-mail: leafeap@igc.apc.org or leaf@igc.apc.org

e-mail: a037782t@bc.seflin.org

Project for an Energy Efficient Florida (PEEF)

Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG) Contact: Bill Jones

Contact: Mark Ferrulo 707 East Park Avenue

704 West Madison Avenue Tallahassee, Florida 32301

Tallahassee, FL 32304 (850) 222-0808

(850) 224-3321 e-mail: creative@lewisweb.net

e-mail: floridapirg@pirg.org

This report is available on the following websites: FCAN - www.citizenaction.org/fl

PEEF - www.lewisweb.net/creative FPIRG - www.pirg.org/floridapirg

Hard copies are available from the above FCPC member organizations for $5.