Make us your home page

Local power companies big on coal, just not so much in Florida

At first glance, Tampa Bay's two dominant power companies seem eager to minimize if not end their reliance on messy coal as a source of fuel to generate electricity in Florida.

Progress Energy wants to shut down coal-fired power plants in Citrus County if it gets a final okay to operate new nuclear power plants in nearby Levy County.

TECO Energy, parent of Tampa Electric, is slowly switching from coal-fired power plants to those fueled by less-polluting natural gas. And it has even agreed to buy power from a solar panel farm that's supposed to be built in Polk County.

What makes coal such a pariah in Florida? Political leaders who want little to do with it. A desire to keep air pollution in check. A lack of coal culture and, of course, a state economy with no coal mining jobs to lose.

But let's switch from the narrow telephoto lens to a wide angle. Outside of Florida, TECO and Progress Energy are clearly bigger fans of coal — and in some cases, bigger coal polluters.

Tampa-based TECO owns TECO Coal, which operates coal mines in Kentucky and Virginia. TECO recently helped back public relations campaigns gearing up to counter environmental activists with a more public, positive spin on coal mining.

One such campaign, backed by TECO and several other Kentucky coal operators, is called Coal Mining Our Future. On Labor Day, it reportedly chartered 28 buses to take thousands of people from eastern Kentucky to a coal rally in Holden, W.Va., where rock 'n' roll guitarist Ted Nugent, known for his conservative views and pro-gun stance, performed.

The campaign includes a "Coal for Kids" charity to provide children with clothing, and a "Coal Gear" Web site selling caps, bumper stickers and T-shirts proclaiming "Coal Keeps the Lights On" and other pro-coal phrases.

The group, emphasizing area jobs, may be gaining some momentum in a struggling economy. It also opposes pending "cap and trade" provisions restricting carbon emissions that are part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

A companion, so-called grass roots group known as "FACES of Coal" — short for Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security — calls itself "an alliance of people from all walks of life" who advocate coal. But the group's origin has been tracked not to Appalachia but to a K Street public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Progress Energy recently found itself with a weak grade and a pollution threat. Federal regulators last month released their first reports on the conditions of "high-hazard" ash ponds at coal plants nationwide. In North Carolina, Progress Energy's Asheville Power Station pond was the only one of the first 17 assessed to be rated in poor condition. (PDF)

Coal ash is the residue left after coal is burned in power plants. It is stored as sludge in ponds.

The assessment mentioned that a failure of Progress Energy's ash pond dam would likely result in at least one death and major property damage.

Call it the two faces of our power companies. Coal's falling off their radar screen in Florida, but it's still big news in Appalachia.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Progress Energy's coal ash pond was rated "poor" by the Environmetal Protection Agenc,y but that is not the EPA's lowest rating of "unsatisfactory." Also, the EPA report accurately referenced but did not independently determine that a failure in the coal ash pond could result in a death and property damage. A Robert Trigaux column on power companies and coal was incorrect on these matters.

Local power companies big on coal, just not so much in Florida 10/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 12:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay's Top 100 Workplaces deadline extended to Nov. 17


    Think you work at one of the best places in Tampa Bay? You've got a little more time to make a pitch.

    Penny Hoarder and Gregory, Sharer & Stuart were among those at an event in Tampa last May honoring winners of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces awards. Nominations are now open for this year.  
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  2. Tampa-based Checkers testing delivery, aims for record expansion


    TAMPA — Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants continues to fly under the radar compared to dominant burger chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

    Checkers Franchisee Shaji Joseph, of Tampa, hoses down the front walkway of his store at 6401 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. The business has a new look including signage and exterior tile. One drive through has been eliminated for an outdoor dining area, right. Joseph owns nine Checkers and is planning to open his tenth in Tampa.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times ]
  3. City Council approves $5 million for Clearwater Marine Aquarium expansion


    CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday approved contributing $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for its massive expansion project.

    Clearwater has agreed to contributed $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium 
's $66 million expansion project.. [ Clearwater Marine Aquarium] 

  4. Trigaux: Florida, Tampa Bay lagging in growth of their startups

    Economic Development

    The annual assessment of how entrepreneurs are doing across the country is out from the Kauffman Foundation — among the best watchers of the nation's startup scene. How do Florida and Tampa Bay fare?

    Lured by financial incentives, startup GeniusCentral relocated from Manatee County in 2015 to St. Petersburg, promising to creatye 40 new jobs. It took downtown space in an appropriately creative workpace for entrepreneurs. It did not last there, later moving back to less expensive space in Manatee. A new Kauffman Index report on entrepreneurship found that Florida is a good place to launch startups but a tougher place to grow them.
  5. Pleasant dreams: sleep travel site gives high marks to Tampa airport


    TAMPA — Traveling might be considered closer to a nightmare than a dream for many. But that might be different for those who travel through Tampa International Airport. It was ranked the No. 3 overall best airport in North America by Sleeping in Airports, a travel site that tracks the best airports to catch some …

    Tampa International Airport was ranked as the No. 3 best overall airport by travel site Sleeping in Airports. | [Times file photo]