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Southeast utilities increase commitment to dry storage, recycling of coal ash

This is the third partin a series on coal ash recycling and the differences in how certain Southeaststates approach beneficial reuse of the material. The examines beneficial reuse in NorthCarolina and the secondpart focuses on coal ash research in North Carolina.

Much like DukeEnergy Corp. in North Carolina, Southern Co. and the Tennessee Valley Authority have spent years focused onbeneficially reusing coal combustion residuals in commercial products such asconcrete and wallboard as they work on safely managing the material.

Southern Co., however, has ramped up these efforts as itcloses basins in response to the U.S. EPA's final coal ash rule published in April 2015, as well asthe EPA's new Effluent LimitationGuidelines.

"The Southern Company system produced 2.8 million tonsof ash and about 1.8 million tons of gypsum in 2015," the company noted ina May2016 report on coal combustion residuals, or CCRs.

"Although the amount of CCRs we recycle varies fromyear to year because of economic conditions and other factors, about 40 to 50percent of the Southern Company system's CCRs on average are sold forreuse," Southern Co. spokesman Jack Bonnikson said in an email.

The Southern Co. system recycled close to 2.3 million tonsof CCRs in 2015, according to the report.

The report shows Southern Co. utilities recycledapproximately 1.6 million tons of CCRs in 2011 and approximately 1.9 milliontons in 2013, prior to the release of the EPA's coal ash rule in late 2014.

Georgia PowerCo. announced in June that it will coal ash within threeyears at its ponds. In March, Georgia Power said it will of all 29 ashponds over a 14-year period, though a dozen will be closed within two years andall but one remaining ash pond will be closed within 10 years.

Ash from 17 ponds near lakes and rivers will be removed andburied elsewhere or recycled, while ash from the remaining ponds will be closedin place, the company said in an Oct. 12 news release.Advanced engineering and construction activities have begun for dry ashconversion projects at Georgia Power's Bowen, Scherer and Wansley coal plants, the company said.

Alabama PowerCo. also anticipates closing its coal ash ponds in response to EPAregulations, according to the report.

Gulf PowerCo., which uses dry ash management for its active coal ashgeneration, is working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protectionon closure plans for ash ponds at recently retired plants. Meanwhile,Mississippi Power Co.has requested approval from the Mississippi Public Service Commission to closethe ash pond at JackWatson, while it evaluates options at its plant.

"Decisions about management of CCRs, as well as pondclosures, are site-specific and balance multiple factors such as pond size,location, geology, amount of material and cost. As part of this decision,beneficial use opportunities are evaluated as a component to the overallsolution for each site. Additionally, we must ensure clean, safe, reliable andaffordable energy for the customers and communities we serve," Bonniksonsaid.

Tennessee Valley Authority made a $1.5 billion to $2billion commitment in 2009 to phase out wet storage of coal ash following the massivespill at its Kingston coal plant in 2008. In late July, the TVA saidit will cap coal ashin place at 10 of its coal-fired power plants after dewatering the ponds andadding a liner system.

The TVA produced 3.9 million tons of coal combustionresiduals in 2015 — including fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag and gypsum — andrecycled 33%, or 1.3 million tons, according to spokesman Scott Fiedler.

While fly ash and dry-stored bottom ash are typically usedin concrete, boiler slag is often used in abrasives and roofing shingles, andgypsum is used in wallboard.

At the TVA's Cumberland coal plant in Stewart County, Tenn., 100% ofthe gypsum is recycled at a nearby wallboard company, Fiedler noted.

Fiedler said supplying ash that is suitable for recycling isthe biggest obstacle the TVA faces based on how the need to ramp up and downits generating facilities can impact recycling efforts.

The TVA has been recycling ash since at least 2000, he added.

South Carolina utilities Santee Cooper and have agreed to ash excavation and recycling methods as part of agreementsreached in 2012 and2013 to settlefederal lawsuits filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Santee Cooper, known legally as the , has even partnered with The SEFA Group on recycling ashfrom its 1,150-MW Winyah coal plant in Georgetown County. The SEFA Groupoperates an on-site thermal beneficiation facility for ponded ash recycling.