As R.I. pursues climate solutions, power plants are nation’s biggest polluters

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Channing Jones

Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center

Bristol, RI – As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy nears, a new report from Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center sheds light on the nation’s 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 Hurricane Sandy unless we act.

“America’s dirtiest power plants are the major offenders when it comes to global warming,” said Channing Jones, Campaign Director with Environment Rhode Island. “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 New England and America, tackling the problem means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.” 

Environment Rhode Island released the report, titled America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, at the Mount Hope Boat Launch in Bristol, in view of the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA – the largest global warming polluter in the Rhode Island area. At a press conference to release the report, Environment Rhode Island was joined by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, State Representative Raymond E. Gallison, Jr. (D-69), Roger William University Law Professor Michael Burger, Clean Water Action Rhode Island Director Jamie Rhodes, and Sierra Club Organizer Drew Grande.

“As carbon pollution continues to compromise public health and wreak havoc on our atmosphere and oceans, this report shines a spotlight on the biggest culprits––power plants,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “Rhode Island and other states are doing their part to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy, but we need a nationwide solution. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan will establish new carbon pollution standards for power plants to reduce these toxic emissions, and we should all get behind him as his plan moves forward.”

The report comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming. The report illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from power plants in Rhode Island, in New England, and around the country.

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 Rhode Island, the top 5 dirtiest power plants for carbon are Entergy’s Johnston facility, the Manchester Street Power Station in Providence, the Tiverton Power Plant, and the two Ocean State Power facilities in Harrisville.
  • Rhode Island’s top carbon polluter, the Entergy plant in Johnston, emits 1.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the carbon emissions from 243,411 passenger vehicles.
  • The Brayton Point Power Station in nearby Somerset, MA, produces nearly as much carbon pollution as all Rhode Island’s power plants combined, with 3.3 metric tons annually, or as much carbon as 679,923 passenger vehicles emit in a year.

“Bristol has one of New England’s biggest carbon polluters right in our backyard,” said State Rep. Gallison. “To ensure the health and safety of current and future Bristolians and Rhode Islanders, we need EPA to act to rein in power plant pollution.” 

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 today an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants.

“There’s also plenty more we can be doing in Rhode Island to offset the need for conventional fossil fuel energy,” added Jones. “For example, we need policies to facilitate the transition to clean, local renewable energy sources like solar power.” Rhode Island is also one of nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a historic plan to cap carbon pollution from power plants in the northeast.