EPA Report Reveals Top Ten Greenhouse Gas Emitting Power Plants in U.S.

The top ten biggest polluters contribute a combined 187.3 million metric tons of GHG pollution each year – equal to the average annual emissions for over 36 million cars.

by Jackie Weidman

For the first time, Americans have access to comprehensive data from industrial sources that are responsible for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution.

This pollution data highlights the nation’s top climate polluters, including the number one emitting power plant in the United States: Georgia’s Scherer coal-fired power station. Owned by Southern Company, Scherer pumped out nearly 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.

Two other plants operated by Southern Company in the Southeastern U.S. — the Bowen plant in Bowen, Georgia and the James H. Miller, Jr. plant in Quinton, Alabama — were the second and third largest polluters in America.

The EPA database includes 80 percent of total U.S. global warming pollution, including emissions from over 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  The EPA defines these emitters as “big emissions sources,” contributing a minimum of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Some of the major data highlights include:

  • Power plants are responsible for 72 percent of greenhouse gases from large emitters (which do not include cars and buildings), pumping 2.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution into the atmosphere each year.
  • 100 facilities, 96 of which are power plants, reported annual emissions over 7 million metric tons.
  • Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana are the top five dirtiest states respectively, responsible for 30 percent of the nation’s annual power plant emissions.

While comprehensive, the registry is not yet complete. It does not include carbon dioxide and other greenhouse pollution from motor vehicles or agribusiness. As Think Progress Green reports, the exclusion of industrial agriculture pollution is due to a loophole inserted by the House of Representatives to protect Big Agriculture.

However, the EPA will soon require reporting from additional industry groups for 2011 data, including petroleum and natural gas systems, industrial wastewater treatment, electronic manufacturing, and industrial waste landfills. The EPA also plans to update the data as it’s received, which will soon be available in a searchable database to allow for more comprehensive analysis.

EPA’s disclosure of the major sources of climate pollution is a major accomplishment. The administration’s greenhouse gas registry will help educate the public, press, legislators, and other government officials about the sources and amounts of climate altering pollution. Hopefully this will increase urgency and support for carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas pollution reductions, which are already long overdue.

7 Responses to EPA Report Reveals Top Ten Greenhouse Gas Emitting Power Plants in U.S.

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    Coincidentally, I just spent about 20 minutes fiddling with this new site, and I strongly recommend others do the same. It’s interactive, it lets the user drill down and slice and dice data, and, frankly, it’s fun to use (said the data geek).

    I’m sure people will be able to do some interesting work with this data, now that it’s this accessible. I’ve already seen one newspaper article that talked about where coal plants in their home state fell in the top 100 sites.

  2. Greg Moschetti says:

    Thanks for this information. Naming names is always a good thing. Perhaps we should be showing up at their gates everyday instead of in Washington DC.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Around 24% of my electricity comes from Colstrip. I’d much prefer it came from some NPPs.

  4. Phil says:

    What would be very useful in this table would be the efficiency of generation. That is the emissions per megawatt hour (or some such).

  5. David B. Benson says:

    “The Colstrip power plant, east of Billings, Mont., operates four coal-fired generating units capable of producing a total of up to 2094 megawatts* of electricity.” from

  6. James Tyree II says:

    Let’s get some online petitions going to shut down or put highly restrictive pollution controls on these power plants!

  7. fj says:

    This great news as a huge amount of focus on these plants to eliminate their emissions one way or another will provide a huge amount of gain.