Thursday, January 12, 2012

Climate changers

So are you really puzzled why the U.S. is so reluctant to make a real commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate climate change? It has less to do with the members of Congress' skepticism about human-induced global warming and everything to do with the fossil fuel industry's powerful and well-funded lobbying efforts. (GW)

Power Plants Top EPA List on Emissions

Three of Southern Co.'s Facilities Grab the Top Spots for Large U.S. Emitters of Greenhouse Gases in 2010

By Tennille Tracy
Wall Street Journal
January 12, 2012

The U.S. government Wednesday released a detailed listing of facilities that emitted the most greenhouse gases in 2010, with three coal-fired power plants owned by Southern Co. topping the list.

Power plants accounted for more than half of the greenhouse-gas emissions by the major emitters on the list, with refineries and chemical facilities also contributing large shares.

The release of Wednesday's data mark the first time the Environmental Protection Agency made detailed information available to the public.

Power plants make up over half of the largest emitters on the list. Southern's Bowen plant in Georgia in 2009.

All three Southern Co. plants use coal to generate electricity and each released more than 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010. Two of the plants, known as Scherer and Bowen, are in Georgia. The third, known as James H. Miller Jr., is in Alabama.

The fourth-largest emitter was the Martin Lake, Texas, power plant of Energy Future Holdings Corp. subsidiary Luminant. Duke Energy Corp.'s largest plant, the Gibson plant in Indiana, came in fifth.

Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton said the company has spent more than $1 billion in pollution-control technology at the Gibson plant since 1990. The plant is the third-largest coal-fired power plant in North America "and so it's really not unusual that it would show up where it is on the list," he said.

Greenhouse Gases

The Top 5 Emitters

  • Scherer(Southern Co.): 23 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent
  • Bowen(Southern): 21 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent
  • James H. Miller Jr. (Southern): 20.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent
  • Martin Lake(Luminant): 18.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent
  • Gibson(Duke): 18 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Representatives of Southern and Luminant didn't respond to requests for comment.

The EPA data covers the largest emitters, more than 6,700 facilities in the U.S. Each facility on the list emitted more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010—roughly the same amount of emissions that would come from burning 131 railcars of coal, the EPA said.

Of the 100 largest emitters—defined as facilities emitting more than 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent—96 of them are power plants. Two are refineries and two are iron and steel mills.

Congress required the EPA to begin collecting and publishing the data under a 2008 spending law.

The EPA is slowly rolling out new greenhouse-gas standards after the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualified as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

The agency has so far regulated emissions from vehicles and has forced power plants, refineries and other large facilities to obtain permits when building new facilities or making major changes to existing ones.

Later this month, the agency is expected to propose new greenhouse-gas standards for power plants. In a call with reporters Wednesday, EPA air chief Gina McCarthy said the agency is "looking forward to trying to adhere to that" timeline.

Republicans and industry groups say the EPA lacks the authority to try to force carbon dioxide reductions using existing laws. Industry groups have filed numerous lawsuits seeking to overturn the EPA's rules and Republicans have drafted bills to block the agency's actions.

Write to Tennille Tracy at


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