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

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Environment Maine

Portland, Maine – As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy nears, a new report from Environment Maine sheds light on the largest single source of global warming pollution nationwide – power plants. Scientists predict that global warming will lead to even more frequent and severe extreme weather events like Sandy unless we act. 

“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Environment Maine Field Associate Amanda Becker. “Nearly a year has passed since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and 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.”

“Increasing extreme weather events, advancing infectious diseases, like Lyme Disease, and rising sea levels as a result of the changing temperatures have already begun to take a toll on the health of Maine people,” said Dr. Lani Graham, co-chair of the Maine Medical Association’s Public Health Committee. “To ensure the health and safety of future generations of Mainers, we need to tackle global warming now.”

The report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, is an analysis of the most recent emissions data from the U.S. Department of Energy and illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from power plants in Maine and across the nation. The report comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Maine’s power plants produce as much carbon each year as 500,000 cars. 
  • Nationwide, power plants are the single largest U.S. source of carbon pollution, responsible for 40 percent of total U.S. emissions.
  • America’s power plants are among the most significant sources of carbon dioxide pollution in the world – indeed, they emit more carbon pollution than every single country in the world other than China.
  • A small handful of the dirtiest power plants produce a massive and disproportionate share of the nation’s global warming pollution. The dirtiest power plant in the United States, Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer, produced more carbon pollution than the entire state of Maine’s energy sector.

Despite their enormous contribution to global warming, U.S. power plants do not face any federal limits on carbon dioxide pollution.

This summer, President Obama directed his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. In a major step, EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20. Nearly 20,000 (19,770) Mainers have already submitted public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants. 

In addition, Maine is one of nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a historic plan to cap carbon pollution from power plants in the northeast. Already, RGGI has reduced pollution, while generating more than $140 billion in benefits to Maine through investments in clean energy. Maine passed legislation to strengthen the program earlier this year and now is in the middle of adopting rules to put those changes in place. 

“Maine’s success with RGGI means we have an obligation to lead the nation on cutting global warming pollution,” said Phil Bartlett, former Senate Chair of the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee. “But, we need EPA to act to ensure that states outside our region take similar steps.”

“Maine has vast untapped clean energy resources in the sun, the wind, and the waves,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder and owner of Revision Energy. “These clean energy sources will cut carbon pollution, while building Maine’s economy.”

Environment Maine called on Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to publicly support President Obama’s climate action plan, including the upcoming carbon standards for new and existing power plants.

“By finalizing strong carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, the U.S. will seize one of its best available opportunities to significantly reduce carbon pollution – helping to forestall the worst impacts of global warming for future generations,” Becker concluded.


Environment Maine is an environmental advocacy organization that works on behalf of its 17,500 members and supporters to preserve Maine’s open spaces, protect clean air and water, and steer the state toward a clean energy future. For more information, please visit