Navajo Generating Station
One of the dirtiest power plants in America.
EPA

It’s time to target the 1 percent.

But we’re not talking about bankers or CEOs this time. We’re talking about the nearly 1 percent of American power plants — 50 of them, all fueled by coal — that produce 30 percent of the U.S. power sector’s climate-changing pollution.

A new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center says America’s 6,000 power plants, which collectively produce 41 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, are the world’s single greatest contributor to climate change. To address that problem, the authors recommend targeting the dirtiest facilities:

Dirty power plants produce a disproportionate share of the nation’s global warming pollution – especially given the relatively small share of total electricity they produce. For example, despite producing 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, the 50 dirtiest power plants only produced 16 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2011.

If the 50 most-polluting U.S. power plants were an independent nation, they would be the seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, behind Germany and ahead of South Korea. These power plants emitted carbon dioxide pollution equivalent to more than half the emissions of all passenger vehicles in the United States in 2010.

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CO2 emissions from America’s power plants compared with CO2 from entire countries, measured in millions of metric tons per year. (Click to embiggen.)
Environment America Research & Policy Center

The 10 dirtiest plants alone produce 0.5 percent of the worldwide energy industry’s carbon dioxide emissions, the report says:

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America’s dirtiest 10 power plants. Click to embiggen.
Environment America Research & Policy Center

Still, power plant operators do not face any federal restrictions on their CO2 emissions — although those operating in California and New England participate in regional carbon-trading programs. The Obama administration is working on rules that would impose CO2 limits on power plants, but they’re still years off from implementation — and already under fierce attack from industry.

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Environment America Research & Policy Center