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Environment & Energy

Report: PA Ranks 3rd Worst in Country for CO2 Emission

A new report finds that Pennsylvania emits the third most carbon dioxide in the country.

PennEnvironment released the report, “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” Thursday – which found that Pennsylvania tails only Texas and California.

The report took 2012 data – the most recent available - from the Environmental Protection Agency and ranked power plants in the United States according to their CO2 emissions.  It then compared each state to total carbon emissions of entire countries.

Adam Garber, Field Director, said the commonwealth emits as much carbon pollution into the atmosphere as Chile does.

“The message of the report today is clear, when Pennsylvania power plants create as much pollution as an entire country, we know the climate is in trouble,” Garber said. “And it’s also clear that we need to act now, we’re already feeling the impacts of global warming here in Pennsylvania from extreme flooding to the harsh weather of the past winter.”

Chile covers more than 291,000 square miles while Pennsylvania is about 46,000 square miles – about 16 percent the size of the South American country.  However, Chile’s economy is about half that of the commonwealth’s.

“Seven of the nation’s most carbon admitting power plants are here in Pennsylvania,” Garber said. “Including First Energy’s Bruce Mansfield’s Plant in Shippingport – which is the third largest carbon polluter in the country.”

Neil Donahue, Director for Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, said this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately or there will be severe consequences.

“It will get hotter here and everywhere, and that’s happening now,” Donahue said. “We will see more severe weather, the oceans will rise a lot, we’re well past the point where Greenland Ice Sheets will melt – it’s not really a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”

According to Donahue, nearly half the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere will stay there for more than 10,000 years, and every year this is not addressed, another 15 billion tons of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere.

This summer, President Obama called for a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 - requiring Pennsylvania to submit a plan to the federal government by 2016. 

Pittsburgh has also taken steps to improve pollution with City Council passing Councilman Dan Gilman’s resolution that supports action against climate change.

Aftyn Giles, Sustainability Coordinator for Pittsburgh, said the city has made great strides with the lowest carbon emission levels on record in decades, but more still needs to be done.

“Despite our efforts, our region Is consistently recognized as an air quality non-obtainment area – falling below national standards,” Giles said. “We realize our non-obtainment status is largely connected to a legacy of heavy industry in what is becoming an antiquated, inefficient method of energy production and delivery and it’s all at the risk of Pittsburgh’s future.”