Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions Where You Live
The U.S. EPA unveiled a new point-and-click database showing greenhouse gas emissions from the country's largest polluters. The tool is pretty slick, allowing you to quickly locate the largest emitters in the country — a coal-fired power plant in Georgia takes the prize for the biggest single emitter in the U.S. — or drill down to see the emissions from power plants in your home state.
The database contains 2010 data from 6,700 of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emitters in the country, which is defined as those generating 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide equivalent. The data captures about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2010, the EPA reported.
Congress required the EPA to gather the data, and it represents a step toward regulating the emissions from the nation's largest stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions (agriculture and transportation emissions are not included).
In addition to serving as the foundation for regulations, the EPA hopes energy companies and the public use the data to improve their decision making.
According to an EPA news release, the data show that:
- Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), followed by petroleum refineries.
- Carbon dioxide accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions with 95 percent, followed by methane with 4 percent, and nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases accounting for the remaining 1 percent.
- 100 facilities each reported emissions over 7 mmtCO2e, including 96 power plants, two iron and steel mills and two refineries.
According to an Associated Press analysis of the data, "20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities."
The AP discussed the regulatory context of the data tool as well, noting: "The Obama administration plans to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases under existing law. A proposed regulation to address pollution from new power plants could be released as early as this month. Eventually, the EPA will have to tackle facilities already in operation. The largest emitters will be the first in line."
The top three greenhouse gas polluters in the country are all coal-fired power plants owned by Southern Company. Two are located in Georgia, and one in Alabama. The largest emitter was the Scherer power plant in Juliette, Ga, which released about 23 million metric tons of CO2 in 2010. (Watch Climate Central's piece for PBS NewsHour on Georgia's heavy reliance on coal for generating electricity.)