Dirty Kilowatts

Power plants provide electricity for our homes, businesses, and factories. But they also foul America’s air with dangerous pollution. Each year, power plants emit millions of tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and contribute to lung and heart disease. Power plants are also major contributors to global warming, emitting billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. And, power plants emit dangerous toxins like mercury, a neurotoxin especially harmful to children and developing fetuses.

Nationwide, power plants account for roughly two thirds of all SO2, 22 percent of NOx, 40 percent of CO2, and roughly a third of all mercury emissions. Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that a disproportionate share of emissions comes from a handful of old plants that have been slow to install modern pollution controls, or which operate inefficiently. This report ranks the top fifty power plant polluters for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and mercury.