As California Pursues Climate Solutions, Power Plants Are Nation’s Biggest Polluters

Media Releases

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Redlands, CA – On the heels of the third largest forest fire in California history, a new report from Environment California Research & Policy Center sheds light on the largest contributors to carbon pollution: power plants. Scientists predict that devastating fires like the Yosemite Rim Fire will become more frequent as global warming produces even hotter and drier summers.

“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Emily Kirkland, Clean Energy Associate for Environment California Research & Policy Center. “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to global warming. Tackling the problem of climate change means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.”

The report, titled America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming. It illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from California’s power sector and ranks California’s biggest carbon polluters. Environment California released the report in both Berkeley and Redlands, CA. The Berkeley release was held on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza with Emily Waterhouse, Field Associate with Environment California Research & Policy Center, joined by Berkeley City Councilmember, Kriss Worthington and CalDem’s Director of Sustainability, Haley Broder. The Redlands release was held at the Crafton Hills College solar array in Yucaipa, joined by Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, Jim Topoleski of the Redlands Fire Department and environmentalists. The speakers stood in front of hills that have been repeatedly threatened by wildfires, providing a clear reminder of the threats posed by global warming.

“The United States Forest Service, Cal Fire, and the California Office of Emergency Services have all documented the impact of climate change on the frequency and intensity of wildfires. I am hopeful that practical steps can be taken to turn the tide and help in our ongoing battle to protect our communities,” said Fire Chief Jeff Frazier of the Redlands Fire Department.

Key findings from the report include:

  • America’s power plants are its single largest source of carbon pollution, responsible for 40 percent of emissions nationwide.
  • In California, the Mountainview Generating Station in Redlands is the most polluting power plant, followed by Delta Energy Center outside the Bay Area, Haynes Generating Station in Long Beach, Cosumnes Power Plant near Sacramento and Elk Hills Power Plant near Bakersfield.
  • The most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation – Georgia Power Company’s Scherer Plant – emits as much carbon pollution as 4.4 million cars.
  • Overall, California’s power plants produce as much carbon each year as 9.1 million cars.

This summer, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. In a major step, the EPA is expected to propose an updated limit on carbon pollution from new plants on September 20th. 3.2 million public comments have already been submitted in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

“America can’t afford to wait on climate, so it’s critical that local, state and federal leaders take the strongest actions possible,” said Kirkland.

“Climate change is already happening,” said Melanie Fitzpatrick, climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley. “From sea level rise and flooding to wildfires and drought, communities everywhere are confronting the costly consequences of a warmer world resulting from too much carbon in the atmosphere. In California, the severity of the recent Yosemite Rim Fire is a reminder that we must take swift and bold action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

“I am extremely proud of the steps the City of Redlands has taken to help reduce our carbon footprint, such as adopting a Climate Action Plan, but more needs to be done at the federal level to address the dangers of global warming. I strongly support investments in renewable energy technology to help curb carbon emissions — investments that will also help create jobs and grow our local economy,” said Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar.

AB-32, California’s landmark cap-and-trade program, already limits carbon pollution from power plants. In 2015, distributors of transportation fuels will be included in the cap-and-trade program, putting California firmly on the path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and ultimately to achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050.

“I am proud that California has set the ambitious goal of lowering our greenhouse gas emissions,” said California State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. I strongly support the Obama administration’s efforts to follow California’s demonstrated progress on this issue.”

“Addressing the problem of global warming requires aggressive action locally,” said Mayor Pat Morris of San Bernardino. “The City has been implementing a comprehensive strategy to reduce carbon emissions through alternative energy sources, using clean fuels in our city fleet and creating a mass transit network for our region.”

“Youth and local residents know that global warming puts their future at risk. We need to cut global warming pollution from power plants nationwide and fully implement AB-32 here in California,” said Allen Hernandez of the Sierra Club.

“We know global warming is a serious problem – which is why I’ve worked so hard to increase the role of renewable energy sources in Redlands,” said Redlands City Councilmember Jon Harrison.

Environment California is calling on state leaders to fully implement the state’s cap-and-trade program and to support federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.