As the nation’s light switch and gas pump, Texas releases far more greenhouse gases into the air than any other state, according to federal data released Wednesday.
Texas’ coal-fired power plants and oil refineries generated 294 million tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in 2010, more than the next two states – Pennsylvania and Florida – combined, the data shows.
The Environmental Protection Agency released the data by industrial facility for the first time as part of a broader effort to reduce emissions linked to global warming.
The agency collected data from more than 6,700 industrial facilities that release at least 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the air a year. The threshold is comparable to the emissions from burning 131 railcars of coal, the EPA said.
While industry-heavy Texas’ ranking did not surprise, environmental groups said data shows the need for federal regulation of greenhouse gases. The EPA said new rules for emissions of heat-trapping gases from power plants and other major sources could be released by the end of the month.
“It highlights the need to take action, especially considering the extreme weather we have seen lately,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, an advocacy group.
‘We’re doing our part’
The American Petroleum Institute, a leading industry trade group, said the federal data proves that there is no reason to include oil refineries in any new rules because they generate a small fraction of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to coal-fired power plants.
“Air quality continues to improve, and we’re doing our part,” said Howard Feldman, API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs. “The last thing we need now are more burdensome or unnecessary regulations that will create a drag on business efforts to invest, expand and put people back to work.”
Texas has become a key front in the battle over federal regulation of greenhouse gases. The state, which has more facilities in the new EPA database than any other, has filed several legal challenges to block the agency from imposing the rules, but has yet to win in court.
Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials have said the federal efforts are based on faulty data and will harm the state’s economy.
In Texas alone, 673 power plants, refineries and other large industrial facilities reported their greenhouse gas emissions to the EPA. California had the second-most facilities in the new database with 456.
Of the Texas facilities, six power plants and Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery ranked among America’s top 50 emitters of greenhouse gases, the data shows.
Luminant’s Martin Lake coal-fired power plant in Rusk County was the state’s leader in 2010, emitting nearly 19 million tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. It ranked fourth nationally.
‘Another reality check’
Coal-fired power plants accounted for 61 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, while oil refineries and chemical producers contributed 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
“This is another reality check for the state,” said Elena Craft, a scientist for the Environment Defense Fund. “The data shows that power plants and refineries are mostly responsible for these emissions, and it’s time for the state to accept responsibility.”
Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s air quality chief, said the information would help governments and industry cut emissions of greenhouse gases, just as the agency’s annual inventory of toxic releases does.
The emissions data is reported by the facilities, but McCarthy said she believes it is reliable.
“Industry has done a very good job,” she said. “This is robust, reliable and consistent data.”