Power Plant Carbon Pollution Drops 10% in Two Years

by | Oct 24, 2013

coal power plantCarbon pollution from power plants has decreased 10 percent from 2010, according to EPA data.

The agency yesterday released its third year of greenhouse gas data detailing carbon pollution emissions and trends broken down by industrial sector, greenhouse gas, geographic region and individual facility. The data, required to be collected annually by Congress, highlight a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions as more utilities switch from coal to cleaner burning natural gas for electricity generation. They also shows a slight decrease in electricity production, according to the EPA.

For reporting year 2012, more than 8,000 facilities and suppliers reported to the EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting program. Among these reporters, 7,809 facilities in nine industry sectors reported direct emissions to the atmosphere, with emissions totaling 3.13 billion metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or about half of total US greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil-fuel fired power plants remain the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions. With just under 1,600 facilities emitting more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, these plants account for about 40 percent of total US carbon pollution.

Greenhouse gases emitted through human activities such as transportation and power generation are the primary driver of recent climate change, the agency says.

The EPA’s reporting program collects annual greenhouse gas information from facilities in the largest emitting industries, including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills, and landfills. In addition, the program is receiving data on the increasing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air-conditioning. The greenhouse gas reporting program is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the US.

The data are accessible through EPA’s online data publication tool, Flight, which is available for both desktop and mobile devices. This year, with three years of data for most sources, Flight has been updated with new features, including the ability to view trend graphs by sector and facility, and download charts and graphs for use in presentations and reports.

The data are also published through EnviroFacts, which allows the public to download data for further analyses.

New large gas-fired power plants would be limited to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour and new small gas-fired turbines to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour under the EPA’s proposed Clean Air Act standards announced last month. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years.

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