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US Power Plant Emissions Fell 4.6 Percent in 2011

Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants fell 4.6 percent to 2,221 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from 2010 to 2011, largely due to an increase in electricity generation from natural gas and renewable energy, according to the EPA’s second annual release of greenhouse gas data.

Power plants, the country’s largest stationary source of GHGs, generated roughly two-thirds of total U.S. emissions. Petroleum and natural gas systems, which reported for the first time, were the second-largest sector with emissions of 225 mmt CO2e in 2011. Refineries were the third-largest emitting source with 182 mmt CO2e, a half percent increase over 2010.

The EPA posted the data on the Facility Level Information on Greehouse Gases Tool, an interactive website that provides public access to emissions data by sector, greenhouse gas and geographic region, such as county or state.

The 2011 data, collected through the congressionally mandated Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, includes information from facilities in 41 source categories that emit large quantities of greenhouse gasses.

The EPA has two years of data for 29 source categories, including municipal landfills, a variety of chemical factories, metal and mineral production sites. Some industrial sectors, such as metals and chemicals production, reported overall increases in emissions. Overall emissions reported from these 29 sources were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010, according to the EPA.

This was the first year that the EPA collected data from 12 source categories that included petroleum and natural gas systems and coal mines.

The EPA has also expanded accessibility of the data through its online database EnviroFacts, which allows users to search for information by zip code.

EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory report, which was released last month, found toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, but total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row. EPA attributes the decline to decreases in hazardous air pollutant emissions including hydrochloric acid and mercury.

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