New Report Documents Power Plant Emissions in North America

December 21, 2011

Air pollution is making news. And now a new report and database can help you report on emissions from your local power plant — or put it in continental context.

Shortly before the Dec. 16, 2011, deadline by which EPA was legally obligated to finalize its new rules on toxic emissions from US power plants, the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) released its report on emissions from 3,144 power plants in Canada, the US, and Mexico (including 1,833 small power plants that each generated less than 100 MW).

Now EPA appears likely to make the air announcement at 2 pm ET on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, in Washington, DC. EPA provided no call-in or livestreaming information with its advisory.

The CEC "was established by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to implement the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the environmental side accord to NAFTA," according to the organization's Web site.

The report provides a wealth of detail on the power plants, focusing on carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter. There is detail on each plant (which can be viewed here and downloaded in Excel format), as well as various types of summary information by categories such as country, pollutant, power plant factors such as age, fuel type, and operating traits, differences in data availability in the three countries, and selected trends since the CEC published its last report in 2004 (similar in topic, but with much more limited data then). In each country, power plants remain a major source of these pollutants that threaten human health, global climate, and other environmental conditions.

The new information, based on 2005 data, is designed to help officials and citizens in each country make better decisions about pollution solutions, and to provide context for cross-border pollution problems. It can also give journalists many useful facts and perspectives so they can better cover this issue. For instance, the report highlights the small number of plants in each country that account for the vast majority of emissions of a given pollutant (such as the 200 US plants that emit 50% of the sulfur dioxide, or the top 10 plants in each country for each pollutant).