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Power Plants Accounted for 72 Percent Of Greenhouse Gases Reported in 2010

Thursday, January 12, 2012

By Andrew Childers and Avery Fellow

Power plants emitted 2.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) in 2010, 72.3 percent of reported emissions nationwide, according to data released by the Environmental Protection Agency Jan. 11.

EPA released data for calendar year 2010, the first year industries were required to report their greenhouse gas emissions to the agency. Petroleum refineries emitted 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2010, the second-largest category at 5.7 percent of emissions. Chemical manufacturers were the third-largest source with 175 million metric tons of emissions, or 5.4 percent of all reported emissions.

More than 6,700 entities reported their greenhouse gas emissions to EPA. The data collected represent 80 percent of all U.S. emissions, EPA said. Carbon dioxide accounted for 95 percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions, followed by methane at 4 percent.

‘Powerful Resource for Decisionmaking.'

Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters the data provide “a powerful resource for better decisionmaking.”

“Better information will always lead to a better-informed public, which will lead to better environmental protection,” she said.

EPA developed a web tool that allows users to access facility-level data from reporting entities.

David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, told Bloomberg BNA the tool will “personalize and localize” greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA's 2009 mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule requires facilities such as power plants, petroleum refineries, and manufacturers with emissions greater than 25,000 tons per year to report their emissions annually (74 Fed. Reg. 56,260; 209 DEN A-6, 11/2/09)..

Power Plants Largest Emitters

According to EPA, 100 facilities individually reported emissions greater than 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Of those, 96 were power plants.

The three largest emitters in 2010 were the Georgia Power Scherer power plant in Juliette, Ga., emitting 22.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent; the Georgia Power Bowen plant in Cartersville, Ga., emitting more than 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent; and the Alabama Power James H. Miller Jr. plant in Quinton, Ala., emitting 20.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Georgia Power and Alabama Power are both subsidiaries of Southern Co.

“The emissions reported for plants Scherer, Bowen, and Miller are indicative of those being among the nation's largest generators of electricity,” Southern Co. spokesman Steve Higginbottom said in a statement.

Higginbottom said the company began disclosing its greenhouse gas emissions to EPA in 1995, and its 2010 emissions were included in its corporate responsibility report.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a power plant trade group, told Bloomberg BNA the power sector's emissions are “attributable to the demands of our entire national economy.”

“It is really no surprise that electric power production is a significant source of greenhouse emissions,” he said. “Electric power is literally the lifeblood of our communities and over 20 different competitive manufacturing sectors.”

Texas Leads in Emissions, Sources

Twelve of the largest 100 emitters were located in Texas. Texas also had the most facilities reporting with 673, followed by California with 456 and Louisiana with 265. Texas had 124 reporting power plants, 29 reporting refineries, and 115 reporting chemical facilities.

Texas also had the largest reported emissions, with 387 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Indiana had the second largest total reported emissions, with 163 million metric tons. Ohio and Pennsylvania each had approximately 156 million metric tons.

McCarthy said EPA anticipates proposing its first source-specific emissions standard for greenhouse emissions from power plants by the end of January.

The agency agreed to issue new source performance standards for emissions from power plants and petroleum refineries as part of two separate settlements with states and environmental groups in 2010 (New York v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 06-1322, 12/23/10; American Petroleum Institute v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 08-1277, 12/23/10).

EPA sent its proposed performance standards for power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review Nov. 7 ( 217 DEN A-3, 11/9/11).

The power plant rule would only apply to new facilities, and McCarthy said there are no pending applications that would be affected by the performance standards requirements.

“It continues to be an interagency review,” she said. “Frankly, we have a rule that deals with new facilities. We don't see why we can't be deliberative with that.”

EPA has missed court deadlines to propose both rules, and the agency continues to work with the litigants in the lawsuits on new deadlines for the regulations.

Petroleum Rule Called Unnecessary

EPA said its performance standards would target the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, beginning with power plants and petroleum refineries. However, refineries account for 5.7 percent of reported emissions.

Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, told Bloomberg BNA that raises questions about the need to regulate refineries' greenhouse gas emissions. He said the petroleum industry is in the “pee wee league relative to the major leagues of utilities.”

The top three emitting refineries in 2010 were the ExxonMobil BT Site in Baytown, Texas, which emitted 10.7 million metric tons of CO2e; the Texas City refinery in Texas City, Texas, which emitted 7.6 million metric tons of CO2e; and the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery and Chemical Plant in Baton Rouge, La., which emitted 6.6 million metric tons of CO2e.

Chemical Industry Anticipates Regulations

Lorraine Gershman, director of regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council, told Bloomberg BNA she anticipates the chemical sector's greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated in the future.

“We certainly anticipate us being the next wave of” performance standards she said.

Taken together, the chemical sector accounted for 5.4 percent of all reported emissions. However, Gershman said that figure aggregates several different chemical production processes that EPA regulates separately. EPA will probably regulate chemical production emissions “piecemeal,” she said.

The top three emitting chemical facilities in 2010 were the Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex operated by CF Industries Inc. in Donaldsonville, La, which emitted 6.4 million metric tons of CO2e; the Dow Texas Operations facility in Freeport, Texas, which emitted 5.7 million metric tons of CO2e; and the Ascend Performance Materials LLC facility in Cantonment, Fla., which emitted 5.6 million metric tons of CO2e.

EPA to Begin Collecting 2011 Data

McCarthy said EPA will begin collecting 2011 emissions data in February.

Another 12 industries will be required to report their 2011 emissions, including electronics manufacturers, underground coal mines, industrial waste landfills, and fluorinated gas producers (229 DEN A-1, 11/29/11).

EPA's reporting rule will capture between 85 percent and 90 percent of all United States emissions once those industries are added, the agency said.

For More Information

More information on the 2010 emissions reporting is available at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgdata/index.html.