Herbert Scholz Power Plant

Florida is the state with the highest pollution levels from old power generating plants, and the Herbert Scholz Generating Plant tops the list of the state’s dirtiest facilities. The factory consists of two 55-year-old coal burning units, each of which generates 49 megawatts of power. Owned by Gulf Power, the Scholz plant is situated on the Apalachicola River Bank in northeast Florida, approximately 25 miles to the east of Marianna.

The Scholz Power Plant was constructed in 1953 and consumed 194,000 tons of coal in 2005. The majority of this fuel source was acquired from Kentucky. The Florida Pollution Control Board forced Gulf Power to adhere to the nation’s clean air standards in 1973. Prior to this, the plant had requested exemption to test new methods of lowering its sulfur dioxide emissions.

In 2008, Gulf Power began a study to discover the possibility of rebuilding the units to enable them to utilize renewable wood biomass. The study was in response to Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s mandate to reduce power plant emissions in Florida. Prior to this mandate, the nonprofit Clean Air Watch called for the dismantling of Florida’s top twelve polluting facilities, all of which were more than ten years older than the national average for similar facilities. Florida is ranked 3rd in the United States for carbon dioxide emissions.

Prior to regulations that arose in the 1970s, it was standard procedure for work sites such as power plants, mills and factories like the Scholz Power Plant to be constructed with asbestos materials, as it offered a high level of resistance to electricity and heat. While intended to protect human lives, thousands have instead developed catastrophic illnesses as a result of asbestos exposure. These diseases include mesothelioma and asbestosis. The greatest danger of developing such conditions occurs when materials containing asbestos become friable and release particles into the air where they may be ingested or inhaled.

Today regulators are aware of the hazards of asbestos inhalation, and employers protect workers whose jobs place them in proximity to friable asbestos. However, in the past this was not the case and workers were freely exposed to asbestos fibers without warning from their employer. In addition, workers often carried this toxin home on their hair and clothes, which resulted in family members becoming exposed and placed at risk for the developing asbestos-related diseases as well. As diseases like mesothelioma do not typically occur until many years after exposure to asbestos, connecting one’s past exposure to later conditions remains challenging, making it difficult for former employees to seek the compensation they deserve from these companies.