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Carbon Pollution Data Put Power Plants Front and Center

David Doniger

Posted February 5, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released plant-by-plant data on 2011 emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping air pollutants.  The data show once again that power plants are the number one source of the carbon pollution that drives climate change, churning out more than 2.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2011. 

The new data confirm that cleaning up the nation’s fleet of power plants should be the centerpiece of President Obama’s actions to reduce the threat of climate change. 

In his inaugural address two weeks ago, the president vowed: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” 

Power plants are far and away the number one source of carbon pollution, responsible for two-thirds of the 3.3 billion metric tons reported by all large industrial facilities, and for 40 percent of the nation’s overall CO2 emissions.  (Overall U.S. emissions of CO2 and other heat-trapping pollutants total about 6.8 billion metric tons, including those from transportation, other industries, and smaller sources.)

Total power plant CO2 emissions in 2011 were down about 4.5 percent from 2010, reflecting the shift towards burning more natural gas and less coal (a trend that continued in 2012 -- see here, p.87 -- and will show up in the plant-by-plant pollution reports EPA publishes next year).  Renewables and efficiency are growing fast – renewable investments increased by 23 percent from 2010 to 2011 according to the Energy Information Administration, and electric efficiency program budgets, for example, rose from $2.7 billion to $6.8 billion between 2007 and 2011. 

NRDC issued an innovative plan in December showing how the president can use the Clean Air Act to cut the dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s existing power plants, slowing climate change, saving lives, creating jobs, and growing the economy.

Our plan achieves huge health and climate benefits at surprisingly low cost, is fair and flexible for each state and power company, holds power bills down, and triggers huge job-creating clean energy investments that can’t be outsourced.  

The NRDC plan cuts overall power sector carbon emissions 26 percent in 2020 and 35 percent in 2025, from 2005 levels.  Because of its fair and flexible design features, our plan achieves enormous climate protection and public health benefits worth $26-60 billion in 2020, at a reasonable cost of $4 billion.

You can check out which of the nation’s 1,594 power plants is in your backyard, and how much carbon pollution it puts out, using EPA’s handy map-based emission data website, which includes data from about 8,000 large facilities in nine industrial sectors. 

You can search for power plants in your state or county, or look up any specific power station.  You can see which states, which plants, and which companies are the biggest polluters, and you can compare 2011 emissions with those from 2010, which EPA published last year. You can also look up the emissions of the other big polluters: oil and gas production facilities, refineries, chemical plants, and other industries.

Just as examples, I’ve listed the top 20 states and the power plants that emit more than 10 million tons per year in two tables at the end of this post.

We have this invaluable “right to know” information because Congress, in 2008 legislation, directed EPA to collect carbon pollution data from every large industrial facility, and to make it publicly available in an easy-to-use form. 

So, thanks to EPA’s greenhouse gas emission database, we know exactly where the carbon pollution is coming from.  And following NRDC’s power plant plan, we know how we can cut it down to size. 

President Obama said eloquently in his inaugural address that “our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” and he spoke of our duty to “preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.” 

Now, as he prepares his State of the Union address, we look to the president to launch specific plans to curb the carbon pollution from the power plant fleet, and from other big industries, using the laws Congress has already entrusted him to enforce.

 

Top 20 Carbon Pollution-Emitting States, 2010 and 2011 (Million Metric Tons CO2-equivalent) 

2011 State Ranking

2011 Total Reported Emissions

2010 State Ranking

2010 Total Reported Emissions

Texas

250

Texas

236

Florida

114

Florida

125

Pennsylvania

114

Pennsylvania

122

Indiana

109

Ohio

116

Ohio

109

Indiana

115

Illinois

96

Illinois

98

Kentucky

93

Kentucky

93

Missouri

80

Georgia

80

Alabama

77

Alabama

78

West Virginia

72

Missouri

78

Georgia

71

Michigan

74

Michigan

68

West Virginia

73

North Carolina

60

North Carolina

71

Arizona

54

Arizona

56

Louisiana

53

Louisiana

50

Oklahoma

51

Oklahoma

50

Wisconsin

45

Wisconsin

46

Wyoming

44

Wyoming

46

Colorado

41

California

45

Tennessee

41

Colorado

43

 

 

Power Plants Emitting More Than 10 Million Metric Tons Per Year

Power Plant

City 

State 

Metric Tons CO2e

Scherer

Juliette

GA

22,067,841

James H Miller Jr

Quinton

AL

22,061,458

Martin Lake

Tatum

TX

18,448,082

Labadie

Labadie

MO

18,229,430

W A Parish

Thompsons

TX

17,726,505

Gen J M Gavin

Cheshire

OH

17,650,544

Navajo Generating Station

Page

AZ

16,928,813

Bruce Mansfield

Shippingport

PA

16,278,605

Monroe

Monroe

MI

15,936,102

Gibson

Owensville

IN

15,823,015

Rockport

Rockport

IN

15,533,777

Bowen

Cartersville

GA

15,047,911

WESTAR ENERGY, INC.

St. Marys

KS

14,789,161

John E Amos

St Albans

WV

14,548,578

Colstrip

Colstrip

MT

14,092,896

Cross

Pineville

SC

14,004,683

Laramie River

Wheatland

WY

13,608,004

Belews Creek

Belews Creek

NC

13,596,704

Limestone

Jewett

TX

13,443,575

J M Stuart

Manchester

OH

13,286,419

Four Corners Steam Elec Station

Fruitland

NM

13,246,273

Sherburne County

Becker

MN

13,190,382

Monticello

Mount Pleasant

TX

13,005,890

Baldwin Energy Complex

Baldwin

IL

12,815,215

Jim Bridger

Point Of Rocks

WY

12,777,809

Big Cajun 2

New Roads

LA

12,458,754

Paradise

Drakesboro

KY

12,436,546

Cumberland

Cumberland City

TN

12,294,761

Oak Grove

Franklin

TX

12,071,515

Intermountain

Delta

UT

11,843,842

San Juan

Waterflow

NM

11,822,117

Ghent

Ghent

KY

11,671,644

Walter Scott Jr. Energy Center

Council Bluffs

IA

11,523,892

Sam Seymour

La Grange

TX

11,459,125

Roxboro Steam Electric Plant

Semora

NC

11,200,738

Crystal River Power Plant

Crystal River

FL

11,119,611

Welsh Power Plant

Pittsburg

TX

11,035,103

E C Gaston

Wilsonville

AL

10,913,364

Independence

Newark

AR

10,875,345

Powerton

Pekin

IL

10,871,825

White Bluff

Redfield

AR

10,644,060

Marshall

Terrell

NC

10,543,157

Springerville Generating Station

Springerville

AZ

10,476,904

Hatfield's Ferry Power Station

Masontown

PA

10,401,485

Keystone

Shelocta

PA

10,391,728

Harrison Power Station

Haywood

WV

10,250,300

Big Bend

Apollo Beach

FL

10,198,116

 

Note:  EPA reports data in metric tons of CO2-equivalent.  A metric ton is equal to about 2200 pounds, or about 1.1 “short” tons, the more familiar unit of measurement in the U.S.  “CO2-equivalent” is a way of comparing the heat-trapping power of different greenhouse gases.

                                    Thanks to Deborah Cooper and Starla Yeh for help on this post.

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Comments

Abhaya ThieleFeb 5 2013 07:04 PM

You state that "Power plants are far and away the number one source of carbon pollution, responsible for two-thirds of the 3.3 billion metric tons reported by all large industrial facilities, and for 40 percent of the nation’s overall CO2 emissions."

However, that leaves 60 percent of the carbon pollution still unregulated.

A carbon tax (with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to consumers) would be a more comprehensive and effective solution for bringing greenhouse gas emission down to levels that will avert continued catastrophic weather impacts and escalating damage to people and ecosystems around the world.

What we need is a market-based solution for bringing in a clean energy economy. Carbon fee and dividend legislation, passed by Congress, will do just that.

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