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EPA Puts Greenhouse Gas on Interactive Map

New database allows users to find the biggest polluters right down to their neighborhood.

If you want to know who are the biggest polluters contributing to global climate change, there is a new interactive tool to help you learn who they are. You might end up being surprised at some of the culprits.

There are the usual suspects on the list of the top emitters of greenhouse gases in New Jersey with power plants, as expected, leading the way to those contributing to warming of the planet, according to a new database compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But the interactive tool unveiled by the agency on Wednesday underscores how dramatic a problem carbon pollution remains not only in New Jersey, but across the United States.

The online interactive map can be used in a variety of ways. The map narrows polluters down to towns and provides a custom search by facility or location, as well as searches by the chemical emitted and emission range. (The emissions data is from 2010).

In New Jersey, the list of top stationary sources of greenhouse emissions includes 41 power plants in the state, four refineries, a number of garbage incinerators, a brewery in Newark, 18 landfills, including a superfund toxic waste site, and most of the big universities, including Rutgers University, and hundreds of chemical plants.

“Who are the biggest carbon polluters in your neighborhood, your city, or your state?’’ asked Meleah Geertsma, attorney for Climate and Clean Air programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And knowing who’s polluting is the first step to holding them accountable.’’

However, the database fails to include greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation section, by far the biggest source of pollution contributing to global climate change. Emissions from cars, trucks, buses, and other transportation vehicles account for an estimated 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey, according to a report put out last year by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

That said, eight of the biggest businesses or entities with the largest carbon footprint in New Jersey are power plants, led by the Bergen generating station owned by PSEG Power, which emitted more than 2.5 million tons of carbon and other greenhouse-gas related pollution. The only surprise there is the station is powered by natural gas, which typically has far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal-fired plants.

The fact that the Bergen generating station led the way, topping two coal-fired plants also owned by Newark-based PSEG Power, both of which released about 4 million tons combined, probably rests in the steep drop in natural gas prices, which have led those plants to run more frequently than coal-fired stations.

In fairness to PSEG Power, it also owns all or a portion of three nuclear plants in South Jersey, and portion of another in Pennsylvania, all of which do not contribute to global climate change.

Other big facilities with huge carbon footprints include two refineries in New Jersey, the Conoco Phillips Bayway Refinery in Elizabeth and the Paulsboro refinery in South Jersey.

The fact that so many landfills were included in the database is not surprising, because the old garbage dumps, many of which have not been properly closed, spew methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The Kinsley Landfill in Sewell in South Jersey, a superfund site, is such an example. It released 20,907 tons of methane.

Finally, Budweiser drinkers, you too, are contributing to climate change. The Anheuser-Busch, Inc. brewery in Newark emitted 49,998 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and that fails to take into account what its customers emit.

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