Large sources’ GHG data shows progress made, where it’s lacking

Bituminous coal
Bituminous coal

Since the focus this week has been overwhelmingly on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, I thought I would round out this week’s discussion covering U.S. GHG.

Going all the way back to Sept. 30th last year, published was the news release “EPA Releases Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities.”

Why bring up this topic now? Not only do I feel this to be an important item, but it is highly relevant and adds much to what has so far been covered in Air Quality Matters this week.

“Today [Sept. 30, 2014], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its fourth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing greenhouse gas pollution trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities,” wrote the EPA in the release. “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.”

Wait, did the environmental regulatory agency say U.S. GHG output was “20 million metric tons higher” than what was emitted a year earlier? It did.

The EPA also revealed that, nationwide, “[o]ver 8,000 large-emitters reported direct greenhouse gas emissions to the program in 2013, representing approximately 50 percent of total U.S. emissions.” Twenty-thirteen program data indicate:

  • More than 1,550 power plants released in excess of 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), this one stationary-source supply accounting for about 32 percent of all U.S. GHG-emissions output. This was 13 million metric tons higher than that vented in 2012 on account of increased coal use
  • The second-largest stationary source of GHG, natural gas and petroleum systems, reported releasing into the atmosphere 224 million metric tons of emissions, an actual improvement over the year before of 1 percent. From the same sources, the amount of methane emitted dropped 12 percent from two years earlier, the greatest improvement seen in natural-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing processes over this same two-year time period, which experienced a 73 percent reduction in the amount of methane released
  • From refineries – the third biggest stationary-sources contributor – GHG emissions rose a reported 1.6 percent above that emitted in 2012 – or 177 million metric tons
  • GHG emissions from the industrial and waste sectors saw a metric-tons-increase of 7 million, a 1-percent jump in 2013 over 2012

“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,” added the EPA in the release. “The program also collects data on the increasing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air conditioning.”

As Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program information becomes available, I plan to provide updates each year.

– Alan Kandel