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

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Environment California Research & Policy Center

Santa Cruz, CA – On the heels of the largest forest fire in California history, a new report from Environment California Research & Policy Center sheds light on the largest contributors to global warming 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 Mac Farrell, Global Warming Organizer for Environment California. “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to global warming. For America, tackling the problem 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.
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, Southern California Edison’s Mountainview Generating Station in Redlands is the most polluting power plant, followed by the Delta Energy Center, Haynes (LADWP), Cosumnes (SMUD) and Elk Hills Power Plants.
  • 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 his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, the largest single source of carbon pollution. In a major step, the EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20th. Americans have already submitted 3.2 million public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants. 
“The Citizens of Santa Cruz are very much in favor of strong climate action at all levels of government,” says Micah Posner, an environmental activist recently elected to Santa Cruz’ City Council. “We’re leading the way with our own local climate plan but the problem doesn’t end at our city limits. We appreciate the federal government beginning to take steps to address climate change.” 
AB 32 established California’s landmark cap-and-trade program, which limits the amount of carbon pollution from power plants. In 2015, distributors of transportation fuels will likewise be regulated through the cap-and-trade program, putting California firmly on the path of meetings its goal to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and ultimately to achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050.
“To ensure that California meets it goals and continues to be a nationwide leader in solving global warming, California leaders must make certain that AB 32 is implemented as designed to cut carbon pollution from our lives,” said Farrell. 
Ross Clark, City of Santa Cruz’ Climate Change Action Coordinator, added, “Investing in local solar energy generation is not only essential for us to meet our GHG reduction goals, but it also provides long term energy savings, creates a financial buffer against energy cost spikes, supports the local renewable energy industry, and can lead to innovation in renewable energy technologies.”
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.
Environment California Research and Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization devoted to protecting our air, water and open spaces. For more information, visit