EPA Releases Map of Top Greenhouse Gas Emitters in U.S.

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Georgia's Scherer coal-fired power plant. (Photo: Wikipedia user Antennas).

The Scherer coal-fired power plant near Macon, Georgia, is the largest single-point producer of greenhouse gases in the U.S., according to a new website from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The list contains emission data from power plants, oil refineries, paper mills and other industries.

"The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data provides a critical tool for businesses and other innovators to find cost and fuel-saving efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technologies to protect public health and the environment," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation in a prepared statement.

McCarthy called the site a "transparent, powerful data resource available to the public." Visitors to the site can see data for the entire U.S. or for the facilities in their state. Users can also search for data on specific facilities or regions.

The Scherer plant, which is owned by Southern Company, is the fifth-largest electric generating plant in the U.S. Its four units each generate 880 megawatts of electricity. In 2010, the facility generated 22.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, along with 178,000 metric tons of nitrous oxide and methane gas. (Southern Company is one of MNN's sponsors.)

Southern Company said in a statement emailed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it "complies with all environmental regulations and supports transparency in emissions reporting. The company is a leader in environmental research, development and implementation." The company said the emissions in its plants — three of which ranked highest on the EPA's list of greenhouse gas emitters — "are indicative of those being among the nation's largest generators of electricity."

Power plants that emit carbon dioxide were responsible for about 72 percent of the greenhouse gases released as reported to the EPA in 2010. The data represents about 80 percent of all U.S. emissions, and does not include sources such as vehicles, agriculture or natural-gas powered home heating systems.

According to the EPA, the state with the greatest overall amount of emissions from power plants and refineries was Texas, with a total of 294 million metric tons. The next-highest state was Pennsylvania, with 129 million metric tons. Florida, Ohio and Indiana rounded out the top five. California ranked seventh, with 71 million metric tons of emissions. Idaho and Vermont had the lowest levels of reported emissions.

The EPA's data release is mandated by the Consolidated Appropriates Act of 2008. This is the first year that companies were required to report their emissions. It currently includes emissions information from nine industries. An additional 12 industries — including electronics manufacturing, underground coal mines, magnesium production and import and export of equipment containing greenhouse gases — must report their 2011 emissions for the first time this year.