Texas Coal Power Plants Pollute as Much as Nation of Egypt

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Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN – As international leaders prepare for the United Nations Climate Summit next week in New York, a new study shows Texas’ coal-fired power plants dump as much carbon pollution into the atmosphere as the entire country of Egypt, a country of 86 million people. Environmental advocates pointed to the data to support proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

“When power plants here in Texas create as much pollution as an entire country, we know the climate’s in trouble,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “It’s time to stop ignoring the nation’s largest global-warming polluter, and start investing in clean energy.”

The Environment Texas Research & Policy Center report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as more than a hundred thousand activists and world leaders converge in New York City seeking solutions to climate change, which scientists have clearly linked to extreme weather events such as drought, wildfires and heatwaves.

The report also comes as the Environmental Protection Agency takes public comments on proposed, first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the limits would be the largest step the United States or any country has ever taken to cut global warming emissions.

By comparing carbon emissions from U.S. power plants in 2012 to total carbon emissions of entire countries, the Environment Texas analysis shows why limiting pollution from coal plants would make such a big impact. Key findings include:

  • If the United States’ fleet of coal- and gas-burning power plants were a country, it would be the 3rd-largest carbon polluter, behind the entire US and China.
  • Texas ranks 1st in the nation for carbon pollution from power plants, with power plant emissions equal to that of 47 million cars.
  • Luminant Generation’s Martin Lake power plant in Tatum is Texas’ largest global warming polluter, followed by NRG’s W.A Parish power plant in Thompsons. Ranked 8th in the nation, Martin Lake released 16.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the emissions equivalent of 3.5 million cars. Ranked 14th in the nation, W.A. Parish released 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 3.1 million cars.
  • The top 5 dirtiest power plants in Texas are responsible for 27% of carbon pollution from the state’s electric sector and 10% of total state emissions. 
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan would reduce as much carbon pollution in 2030 as the entire country of Canada, the world’s 8th-largest polluter, emits today.

The Clean Power Plan would also spur investments in clean energy like wind and solar power, for which there is vast potential across the country and in Texas. As of this year, wind energy is now the third largest producer of electricity in Texas, ahead of nuclear power.

“Houston is often called the Energy Capital of the World,” said Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston, “By cutting carbon pollution from power plants and diversifying energy production, we can ensure that Texas becomes the Energy Capital of the 21st Century.”

Americans have submitted more than 6 million comments to EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants; and more than a thousand people testified in support of the Clean Power Plan at hearings held across the country this summer. Local elected officials, small businesses owners and dozens of members of Congress have all voiced support for limits on carbon pollution.

“The Clean Power Plan has given Texas a huge opportunity to cut dangerous carbon pollution and take charge of our energy future,” said Metzger. “Our leaders should get their heads out of the sand and take advantage of Texas’ enormous potential to lead in clean energy instead of pollution.”

“The good news is that reducing carbon pollution from power plants will reduce costs for consumers and create jobs,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “It will save consumers from higher costs in electric utilities, water costs, insurance costs, health cost and for food. Transitioning to renewable energy in Texas has created over 100, 000 new jobs according to Governor Perry.” 


Environment Texas Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy group working for the places we love and the environmental values we share.   www.EnvironmentTexascenter.org