EPA blames rise in 2013 carbon dioxide emissions on coal plants

While greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants have decreased significantly since 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blames a 2013 uptick in coal plant use for an emission increase last year.

EPA has just released its fourth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing GHG trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities, according to GenerationHub.

In 2013, reported emissions from large industrial facilities were 20 million metric tons higher than the prior year, or 0.6 percent, driven largely by an increase in coal use for power generation, EPA said in a Sept. 30 news release.

Data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and other sources has pointed to a rise in coal plant use during 2013 in part because of higher natural gas fuel prices.

“Climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas pollution, is threatening our health, our economy, and our way of life—increasing our risks from intense extreme weather, air pollution, drought and disease,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is supporting the President’s Climate Action Plan by providing high-quality greenhouse gas data to inform effective climate action.”

The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the United States, including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills and landfills.

The program also collects data on the increasing production and consumption of hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Over 8,000 large-emitters reported direct greenhouse gas emissions to the program in 2013, representing approximately 50 percent of total U.S. emissions, EPA said. The data from these facilities show that in 2013:

·      Power plants remained the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with over 1,550 facilities emitting over 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly 32 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Power plant emissions have declined by 9.8 percent since 2010, but there was an uptick in emissions of 13 million metric tons in 2013 due to an increased use of coal.

·      Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest stationary source, reporting 224 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a decrease of 1 percent from the previous year.

·      Reported methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems sector have decreased by 12 percent since 2011, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, which have decreased by 73 percent during that period. EPA expects to see further emission reductions as the agency’s 2012 standards for the oil and gas industry become fully implemented.

EPA also reported that 92 facilities of some type reported injecting CO2 underground.

EPA rolled out its Clean Power Plan, which calls on states to cut CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030, in June. The comment deadline was recently extended until Dec. 1.

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