Power plants put Tennessee among top 25 air polluters

Tennessee power plants have landed the state on a list of the top 25 producers of greenhouse gas emissions from carbon monoxide, according to a report released today.

The state ranked No. 21 for the emissions of the greenhouse gas that has been under scrutiny in recent months by federal regulators, according to the report released by Ceres, a nonprofit energy research group.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected next month to release new guidelines to curb carbon emissions at existing power plants. It's part of a two-step process that the Obama administration is taking to stem climate change. Last September, the EPA announced limits on carbon emissions for new plants.

While Ceres has produced the report since 1997, Mindy Lubber, the president of the nonprofit, said attention on air emissions have grown in recent years.

"We've never released it as such a critical and opportune time," Lubber said in a conference call.

Electricity producers across the country have already be able to cut carbon emissions 13 percent between 2008 and 2012, Lubber said.

"The power sector has already begun to de-carbonized through increased investment in natural gas, renewables, and increased efficiency," Lubber said.

While some industry observers have warned of job losses and reduced economic activity as a result of the EPA's new carbon rules, Lubber said electricity producers have always founds ways to innovate and meet stricter standards.

"The power sector can successfully meet air pollution standards while keeping our lights on," Lubber said about the industry's efforts to reduce other air pollution. "There's no reason to think it can't do the same with carbon monoxide."

The report drew a straight line between carbon pollution and electricity production at coal-fired power plants. The report found that the Tennessee Valley Authority, the state's largest electricity producer, ranked fifth in both overall coal electricity production and emissions of carbon monoxide.

The federal utility is amid a $1.1 billion project to cut certain emissions other than carbon at its coal-burning power plant near Gallatin by as much as 96 percent.

Despite ranking in the top half of states for total carbon emissions, Tennessee's coal plants looked more favorable when comparing emission rates. In that list, the state was 32nd. Meanwhile, comparing emissions rates of all fossil energy produced, the state ranked 16th.

Reach Josh Brown at 615-726-5964 and on Twitter @joshbrownnews.


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