Press Release | June 2, 2008

South has much at stake as U.S. Senate begins historic debate on climate change legislation

The U.S. Senate today began much-anticipated debate on the Climate Change Security Act of 2008, also known as the Warner-Lieberman bill. The U.S. has lagged well behind other industrial nations in addressing the threat of global warming.

While the nation and the world will benefit from passage of legislation to control carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the South in particular has much at stake – and much to contribute toward curbing carbon emissions. Each of the six states in SELC’s region (AL, GA, NC, SC, TN, VA) rank among the top 15 highest sources of carbon pollution in the U.S. If the six states were a nation, we’d rank 7th in the world in total carbon emissions.

Nat Mund: “The South’s sprawling development patterns and reliance on coal for electricity mean a huge carbon footprint. And we have a lot at stake – miles of fragile coastline and some of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet. Senators Warner, Lieberman and Boxer deserve tremendous credit for shepherding legislation to this point.”

Trip Pollard: “Transportation generates one-third of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., and is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in many states in the South. Federal climate legislation must include significant funding for states and localities to implement smart growth and alternative transportation measures that can cut emissions – and help people save money – by reducing driving.”

Power plants The South is heavily reliant on coal for its electricity. The region is home to the nation’s three dirtiest coal-fired power plants in carbon emissions – Scherer (GA), Miller (AL), and Bowen (GA). The Cumberland plant in Tennessee ranks #8. Today there are proposals pending for four more conventional-style coal-fired power plants that would add at least 22.6 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year (see chart below).

Transportation The South is the fastest sprawling region in the U.S., and transportation programs in the region have focused on road-building. This translates into rising carbon emissions from the ever-increasing number of miles we are driving. From 1990-2005, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in SELC’s region increased 48.9%, outpacing the national increase of 39.2%. Between 1982 and 1997, SELC’s six-state region developed more land by far than any other region; 6,064,500 acres compared to the next highest, the eastern Midwest at 3,777,200 acres. Last week, a report by the Brookings Institution found that many southern metro areas had a higher than average carbon footprint per capita.

At risk If global warming is unchecked, miles of shoreline in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia – and the people who live there – will be more at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent and powerful hurricanes. By the same token, the likelihood of more intense drought will dry up drinking water supplies along the coast, in the Piedmont and in the mountains of the fast growing region. Ecologically, some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world – including the Southern Appalachian highlands and longleaf forests along the coast – could suffer dire consequences.



  Company Megawatts CO2 Emissions tons/Year Cost estimates as of 5/08
Pee Dee, SC Santee Cooper 1,320 11 million $1.35 billion
Cliffside, NC Duke Energy 800 6.25 million $1.8 – 2.4 billion
Washington County, GA Electric cooperatives 850 unknown at this time $2 billion
Wise County, VA Dominion Power 585 5.4 million $1.8 billion
TOTAL   3,555 at least 22.65 million at least $6.95 billion


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