Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Agency

Mapping major emitters with EPA’s greenhouse gas tool

If you’re curious about the industrial operations that are emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) in your state or neighborhood, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great data tool that also provides some helpful context with its visualizations.

Data is only available for 2011, but EPA’s tool provides a wealth of information for interested citizens and environmental experts alike. The tool only reports on facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of GHGs a year, but these major emitters, such as power plants and refineries, account for more than half of the nation’s total GHG output.

The maps, which can be analyzed by state and county, show the location of GHG emitters; suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial chemicals; onshore gas production facilities; local energy distribution companies; and the handful of facilities that inject CO2 underground. The maps will tell you how many facilities are in a given location and, if you keep zooming in, you get to facility-level data. For example, in Washington you can click on facilities in Bellevue and get to Puget Sound Energy, as shown below.

EPA GHG map 1

If you click on “View reported data,” you’ll be sent to another EPA database page that provides greater detail.

Aside from just clicking through points on the map, you can search for facilities by name or location. You can also filter data by type of GHG, or by the quantity of emissions.

Where the data tool really comes to life is in the mapping of coverage areas for local energy companies. Still using Puget Sound Energy as our example, the mapped data shifts from the point source facility to the region served by the utility.

EPA GHG map 2

Below the map, EPA provides some context for the sector you are viewing, in this case petroleum and natural gas systems in the state. Washington has five such facilities that reported 702,285 metric tons of CO2-equivalent in 2011. At 665,994 metric tons, Puget Sound Energy is responsible for the vast majority of emissions associated with the state’s energy supply.

You can easily get a snapshot of statewide GHG emissions by playing with the “Data View” buttons on the top right of the GHG tool web page. In Washington, power plants and refineries account for the bulk of reported GHG emissions. Clicking on the pie chart instead of the bar chart displace the same data in more intuitive percentages.

EPA GHG map 3

To learn more about state-level GHG data, see our other posts: “Greenhouse gases: how do Western states compare?” and “Flow diagrams of U.S. and Western carbon emissions.”

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Our air is cleaner, but big challenges remain

40 years after the Clean Air Act became law, what are the major air quality issues in the West?

We’ve made significant progress in reducing pollution since the Clean Air Act (CAA) was enacted more than 40 years ago, even during a period of strong economic growth. Just since 1990, when the CAA was last amended, GDP is up 65%, while aggregate emissions of the six major pollutants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates are down 59%. In this batch of slides, we show that the greatest improvements have been in reducing sulfur dioxide, lead, and carbon monoxide. But there’s still a lot of work ahead, both nationally and in the West. Progress has been less substantial in reducing particulates and ground-level ozone. Despite advances in technology and stricter regulations, millions of Westerners remain exposed to toxic air pollution.

Air pollution overview from EcoWest on Vimeo.

California still leads the country in “bad air days,” largely due to pollution in Los Angeles but also the Sacramento area. Bad air days result primarily from the slower progress made in reducing particulate matter (PM2.5) and oxides of nitrogen, a precursor to ground-level ozone.

As with population and economic activity, California tends to dominate the West’s air quality profile. When viewed in the national context, California’s emissions levels, air-pollutant based cancer risks, and bad air days have more in common with the populous eastern United States than other Western states.

Several of the slides examine emissions by major pollutant, using EPA’s 2008 inventory. California leads other states in particulate matter (which originates in smoke and dust), oxides of nitrogen (which come from power plants and fuel combustion), volatile organic compounds (which emanate from consumer products, paints, and industrial chemicals), and carbon monoxide (which primarily stems from motor vehicles).

Sulfur dioxide differs from the other major pollutants examined here. Fuel technology advances have largely controlled SO2 emissions from motor vehicles; SO2 emissions now primarily come from aging coal-fired power plants, older generating stations, and mineral extraction, sources that are concentrated in Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.


Download Slides: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Slides: Air Pollution Overview (9.28 MB pptx)
Download Notes: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Notes: Air Pollution Overview (1.29 MB pdf)
Download Data: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Data: Air Pollution Overview (363.25 kB xlsx)

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.