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Nathan Willcox,
Environment America

New Report: Pollution Down in One-Third of States Prior to Economic Downturn

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. — Global warming pollution declined in one-third of the states since 2004, the year in which pollution levels began to peak in many states, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment America.  States are reducing pollution in part by using cleaner energy that keeps money and jobs in the local economy.  Pollution levels, however, rose in the majority of states (33) between 2004 and 2007.

“The transition to clean energy is a marathon, and we’ve just laced up our sneakers,” said Environment America Federal Global Warming Program Director Emily Figdor.  “It’s time to take back control of our energy future.  By harnessing the power of the wind and the sun, we can cut pollution and transition to clean energy sources that don’t harm the environment, never run out, and create new, local jobs,” she continued.

For decades, America’s use of fossil fuels – and the global warming pollution that results – has been on the rise nationally and in states across the country.  But the United States must cut its pollution by 35 percent by 2020 to be able to stop the worst effects of global warming.

"Too Much Pollution: State and National Trends in Global Warming Emissions from 1990 to 2007" uses the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy on fossil fuel consumption by state to look at trends in carbon dioxide emissions.  Environment America and our allies are releasing the report today in more than 30 states.

The key findings include the following:

  • Nationally, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased by 19 percent between 1990 and 2007.  Power plants and vehicles, the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, were responsible for the lion’s share of the increase. 
  • Yet, emissions peaked in multiple states in 2004 or 2005 and declined in 17 states and D.C. between 2004 and 2007 – well before the onset of the recession.  Actions by these states to use energy more efficiently and switch to cleaner forms of energy played a role in reducing pollution.
  • Moreover, four Northeastern states – Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York – and D.C. emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption in 2007 than they did in 1990.  The biggest factor in all four states was a shift to cleaner forms of electricity.  These states cut their pollution levels by 5 percent since 1997, while increasing their gross state product by 65 percent. 
  • Still, emissions in 33 states increased between 2004 and 2007.  

The initial success of the states that have reduced pollution since 2004 shows that moving to clean energy can have a significant and immediate impact on overall emissions – and that emission reductions and robust economic growth can occur side by side.

“We can drive the economy without driving up pollution.  By moving to clean energy, we can cut pollution, help jump-start the economy, and create millions of new clean energy jobs across the country,” said Figdor.

The report recommends that the federal government build on the initial progress made by states by passing strong clean energy legislation and adopting common sense Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to cut pollution from dirty coal plants and big smokestack industries.  EPA has proposed a rule to require coal plants and other large smokestack industries to use available technology to cut their global warming pollution when new facilities are constructed or existing facilities are upgraded.

Unfortunately, Dirty Coal, Big Oil, and other polluters are fighting the transition to clean energy, including trying to use the energy legislation in Congress to stop EPA from taking this or any step to require coal plants and other big smokestack industries to meet performance standards for global warming pollution.  “The coal industry has proven themselves willing to do or say virtually anything to block progress,” said Figdor.

“The Senate must pass an energy bill that requires old, clunker coal plants to meet modern standards for global warming pollution so we can be successful in our fight against global warming and finally move to clean energy, like wind and solar power.  We also urge EPA to finalize its rule to cut global warming pollution from dirty coal plants,” said Figdor.