As New York pursues climate solutions, power plants are nation’s biggest polluters

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Environment New York Research & Policy Center

As the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy nears, a new report from Environment New York Research & Policy Center sheds light on the largest contributors to global warming pollution – 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 Marissa Lieberman-Klein, Field Associate with Environment New York. “Nearly a year has passed since the devastation of Superstorm 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.”

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 New York’s power sector and ranks New York’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 New York, the top 5 dirtiest power plants for carbon are AES Somerset LLC (also known as Kintigh Generating Station), Northport Power Station, Dunkirk Generating Plant, Ravenswood Generating Station, and East River Generating Station.
  • The most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation – Georgia Power Company’s Scherer Power Plant – emits as much carbon pollution as 4.4 million cars.
  • Overall, New York’s power plants produce as much carbon each year as 7.9 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, EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20. Americans have already submitted 3.2 million public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants, with more than 189,000 coming from New York.

“Here in New York, extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy are already taking a heavy toll on our community,” said Eric Whalen, Field Organizer for Environment New York. “To ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers and future generations, we need to tackle global warming now.”

“I am so proud that New York has been a leader in tackling carbon pollution from power plants. I will continue to work towards making sure important environmental protections are in place to maintain and improve our state’s incredible natural resources, and to stick to our commitment to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. “It is critically important that the EPA act, as we have heard it will, to ensure that states outside our region take similar steps so that we can ensure these protections are in place across our beautiful and resource-rich nation.”

New York is one of nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a historic plan to cap carbon pollution from power plants in the northeast. Already, RGGI has generated to over $1 billion for investment in energy efficiency. Now, New York leaders are working to adopt stronger rules that will reduce carbon emissions 20 percent.

“That we are still witnessing carbon emissions on this scale speaks to the importance of what New York and the U.S. government are doing to cut climate-altering pollution,” said Dave Gahl, interim executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “With New York’s good changes to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative nearly on the books, now it is the EPA’s turn to hold the rest of the nation to the standard being set in the Northeast.”

“We must stop poisoning ourselves. With a smarter approach we can have both a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy” said Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti.

“New York has been a leader tackling carbon pollution from power plants and should stick to its commitment to strengthen RGGI,” said Albany Common Councilmember Anton Konev. “But, we need EPA to act to ensure that states outside our region take similar steps.”