EDF applauds release of new data on America’s biggest climate polluters

October 23, 2013
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – October 23, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly-released and expanded database on greenhouse gas emissions will be crucial for America’s efforts to reduce climate pollution, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

For the several years in row, the data shows that coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in America and that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector are likewise a major source of climate pollution.      

“This new data provides Americans with critical information about large sources of climate-disrupting pollution in their communities,” said EDF’s Peter Zalzal. “This vital information is a call to action for America to work together in deploying innovative solutions like the carbon pollution standards EPA has recently proposed for future power plants and much-needed clean air measures to address methane from the oil and gas sector.”

EPA unveiled the 2012 data on America’s largest industrial emitters today, through its user-friendly website. Collectively, the database tracks the sources of billions of tons of climate disrupting pollution. 

This year, EPA collected additional data from power plants, the waste sector, coal mines, and manufacturers of electrical equipment. This new information includes underlying data used to calculate facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions and will help verify the accuracy of reported emissions.  EPA is also publishing greenhouse data through its Envirofacts website, which includes information on air and water pollution from sources across the country.

EPA’s database is part of a program signed into law by President Bush in 2007. This year’s data covers more than 8,000 industrial sources that emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or more per year, which is the same as 131 rail cars of coal consumed or 58,000 barrels of oil consumed. (Churches, homes, cattle, and other small sources are not covered under the program.)  Emissions of the following climate-disrupting pollutants will be disclosed:

  • carbon dioxide
  • methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • hydrofluorocarbons
  • perfluorocarbons
  • sulfur hexafluoride

EPA’s website allows all Americans to search and sort emissions information by geographic area and industry sector, to compare emissions among facilities, and to share the information using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. That means Americans can find out the biggest pollution sources near their hometowns. It also means that companies, policymakers and investors can compare pollution levels at similar facilities – which can identify the companies that are leading the way in pollution reductions, and the effective strategies they’re using.

Carbon Pollution from Power Plants — As in 2010 and 2011, the data show that the carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants is by far the largest source of climate destabilizing pollution in our nation. At present there are no national limits on the amount of climate-destabilizing pollution emitted by these plants. It is critical that we begin reducing this harmful pollution. Fortunately, EPA has just proposed standards would establish the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from future fossil fuel fired power plants and the President has likewise committed to addressing this harmful pollution from the nation’s existing fleet of power plants, with a proposal to be released in June of next year. A wide variety of solutions are available today to meet our nation’s energy needs while we reduce carbon pollution and build a strong clean energy economy for our nation, including more efficient use of energy, renewable energy, highly efficient natural gas plants, and coal plants that capture and permanently store carbon pollution.     

Methane from Oil and Natural Gas Systems — The new data provides the second year of emissions information from the oil and natural gas sector, which is the largest domestic source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas and a contributor to ground-level ozone (commonly known as smog). The President’s Climate Action Plan identifies the critical importance of reducing methane emissions, and we must swiftly deploy common sense, cost-effective solutions to reduce this harmful pollution in the oil and gas sector. Some leading companies are utilizing many of these clean air measures, which help capture natural gas that would otherwise be wasted, reducing pollution while saving a valuable domestic energy source.  We need to build from leading state policies and private sector practices to put in place rigorous nationwide protections.  

At the same time, it is imperative that we strengthen EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting program for oil and gas sector so it addresses all significant sources of methane from the sector and ensures that the data collected is rigorous. Last year, EDF along with NRDC, Sierra Club, and Clean Air Task Force petitioned EPA to strengthen the national emissions inventory and reporting program for the oil and gas sector by ensuring data is collected for gathering and boosting infrastructure, co-producing oil and gas wells, and certain sources in the transmission sector. These are major sources of emissions and essential elements of a comprehensive program. We have also urged EPA to eliminate non-standardized measurement methodologies currently allowed by the program that undermine data reliability.   

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.