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Southern Company (SO) to Begin Ash Pond Closure at Plant Mitchell

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The Southern Company’s (SO - Free Report) wholly-owned subsidiary Georgia Power advances with the shutdown process of three ash ponds at Plant Mitchell, a coal-fired power station near Albany, GA, which was retired in 2016.

The ash pond closure project has been approved and will be regulated by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (“EPD”).

Georgia Power will clear old ponds, which store coal ash produced to generate electricity, and then use the ash to blend it with Portland cement. The method is known as the dewatering process and is expected to start in February. Notably, Plant Mitchell owns about two million tons of stored coal ash.

The utility stated that the combination of coal ash and cement is unlikely to create environmental contamination. In fact, this is the first effort that stored ash from the ash ponds will get extracted for reusability as part of the project. At present, Georgia power recycles more than 85% of all ash and gypsum, which comprise more than 95% of fly ashes. Importantly, these fly ashes are produced from the utility’s ongoing operations for various reuses such as concrete production and other construction products.

As per the plan, the utility will remove approximately two million tons of stored coal ash from the existing ash ponds in order to reuse it in Portland cement production. During the dewatering process, three third-party contractors will provide engineering and monitoring services to check that the water quality is safeguarded at every phase.

Water will pass through a purification system to eliminate impurities and toxic chemicals to the authorized level. Moreover, the monitoring procedure will identify the errors and will enable a shut-down mechanism that the system has to prevent the transmission into the river. Operators will get notified and polluted water will be returned to the ponds for reprocessing. Notably, water quality (both upstream and downstream of the plant) will be checked by third-party vendors.

Overall, the state’s largest utility is expected to clear out 29 coal ash ponds throughout Georgia. It remains focused on the safety and fulfilling of all requirements during the process with an aim to protect the environment, local communities and water quality all along the way.

Company Profile & Price Performance

Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Southern Company is one of the largest utility companies in the United States.

The utility’s shares have outperformed the industry in the past six months. Its stock has gained 9.9% compared with the industry’s 7.4% growth.



Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider

The company currently carries a Zack Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked players in the utility space are RWE AG (RWEOY - Free Report) and ONEOK, Inc. (OKE - Free Report) , each sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and ENN Energy Holdings Limited (XNGSY - Free Report) , currently carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

RWE is expected to see an earnings growth of 37.63% in 2021, while ONEOK is likely to see an earnings growth of 109.3% in 2021.

In the past 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for ENN Energy’s 2020 earnings has been raised by 13.2%.

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