U.S. Industrial Emissions Up 0.6% Thanks to Coal Use

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities were 0.6 percent, or 20 million metric tons, higher in 2013 than the previous year, driven primarily by an increase in coal use for power generation, according to new data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The data came from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the U.S., 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 hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

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

  • Power plants remained the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with more than 1,550 facilities emitting over 2 billion metric tons of CO2, or roughly 32 percent of total US greenhouse gas pollution. Power plant emissions have declined by 9.8 percent since 2010, but there was an increase 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 the 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. The EPA expects to see further emission reductions as the agency’s 2012 standards for the oil and gas industry become fully implemented.
  • Refineries were the third largest stationary source, reporting 177 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, up 1.6 percent from the previous year.
  • Reported emissions from other large sources in the industrial and waste sectors increased by 7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution, up 1 percent from 2012.

In June, the EPA released the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The EPA said the proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels. Earlier in the year, the Obama Administration released its official strategy for reducing methane emissions as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, which takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and agriculture, as well as oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and practical standards.

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