NJ Fares Well in EPA’s Map of Greenhouse Gas Totals in Industrial States

Tom Johnson | February 7, 2013 | Energy & Environment
Garden State isn’t even among top 10; Linden has three of our worst-polluting facilities

Perhaps New Jersey isn’t so bad, after all, when it comes to air pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday unveiled its second interactive map detailing what power plants, petroleum-fueled and natural-gas systems, refineries and other sites spew out greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

New Jersey, one of the smallest states in the nation, didn’t even make the top 10 list of states emitting carbon dioxide and other gases from large facilities believed by most scientists to be a major cause of global warming.

The EPA report also shows a decline in toxic air emissions under another program that tracks what harmful chemicals are emitted into the air, water and soil.

It should be noted that the EPA data does not include greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the largest source of pollution contributing to global climate change.

But New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, amounted to 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or other equivalent gases. That pales in comparison with other states, 10 of which produced more than 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, led by Texas with 407 million metric tons.

The list of facilities in New Jersey reporting emissions ranged all over the map—refineries, landfills, garbage incinerators, colleges and universities, and even a beer brewery in Newark.

In New Jersey, the top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions was the Conoco Phillips Bayway refinery in Linden with about 2.5 million metric tons, a bit more than last year’s leader, the PSEG Power generating station in Ridgefield, with approximately 2.44 million tons. Linden had the dubious distinction of having three of the top emitters of carbon dioxide in New Jersey, with both the Linden generating station owned by PSEG and the Linden cogeneration station also topping 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2011.

Still, the comparatively low numbers for New Jersey are likely to be used by critics of a regional program aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions in 10 Northeastern states. New Jersey was a part of the initiative until Gov. Chris Christie, citing the cost of ratepayers, pulled the Garden State out of the program.

As in the prior year, power plants nationwide accounted for most of the emissions contributing to global climate change, representing two-thirds of the greenhouse gas pollution coming from large facilities. That total dropped by 4.6 percent, however, largely because of the shift to power plants using relatively cheap natural gas instead of coal, according to EPA officials.

Nevertheless, some environmental groups called on the Obama administration to focus more of its efforts to curb global climate change on power plants.

“The new data confirms that the nation’s power plants, which churned out 2.2 billion tons of carbon pollution, should be the centerpiece of President Obama’s actions to reduce the threat of climate change,’’ said David Doninger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program.