Environment | Local

Database Reveals Top Greenhouse Polluters

OPB | Jan. 11, 2012 10:28 p.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:02 a.m. | Portland, OR

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The Environmental Protection Agency issued a first-of-its-kind database Wednesday identifying the top greenhouse gas polluters nationally and in each state.


Find more data, maps and charts on this story and other environmental news at EarthFix.


The new database allows anyone with computer access to discover the sources in their community of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases that contribute to a warming climate. 

For the Northwest and the country as a whole, power plants are the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, according to the new data.

The newly released data for direct emitters show that in 2010:

  • Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions with 2.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, followed by petroleum refineries with emissions of 183 million metric tons.

  • Carbon dioxide accounted for the largest share of direct greenhouse gas 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 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, including 96 power plants, two iron and steel mills and two refineries.

An EarthFix analysis of the EPA’s data found that in the three Northwest states, power plants and refineries also dominated the list of most prolific emitters of carbon dioxide.

Among the region’s ten biggest sources of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, seven are power plants in Oregon or Washington. The other three are refineries in Washington.

The single largest greenhouse gas polluter in the Northwest is the TransAlta coal-fired power plant in Centralia, Washington. The EPA says it emitted nearly 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. The second-largest greenhouse gas emitter is the Portland General Electric coal-fired plant in Boardman, Oregon. It pumped out nearly 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Portland General Electric has agreed to stop burning coal at its Boardman plant by 2020. TransAlta agreed with Washington State to close one coal-fired boiler by 2020 and the second one by 2025.

Jana Gastellum with the Oregon Environmental Council applauded the EPA for making data available online in a way that allows people to do research the way they do to assess a vehicle’s fuel economy or count calorie.

“Having greenhouse gas information available on a state by state basis can really help communities understand where their biggest emission sources are and again how to help reduce those emissions,” she says.

Find more data, maps and charts on this story and other environmental news at EarthFix.

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