For the first time, agency released detailed information on sources of greenhouse gas emissions by facility. Summary.
WASHINGTON - The most detailed data yet on emissions of heat-trapping gases show that U.S. power plants are responsible for the bulk of the pollution blamed for global warming.
Power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010, said data released Wednesday. It was the first catalog of global warming pollution by facility and included more than 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, or about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions.
According to an Associated Press analysis, 20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities. Refineries were the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with 5.7 percent of the reported total.
In Minnesota, Xcel Energy's coal-burning power plant in Sherburne County dwarfed all other state emitters of greenhouse gases with 13 million tons, or 29 percent of the state's total. The next largest, Minnesota Power's coal-fired Boswell power plant in Cohasset, put about half as much, or about 14 percent of the state total.
Overall, power plants represented 67 percent of Minnesota greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA data show. The top 10 sources in Minnesota included six coal-fired power plants, two refineries and two taconite companies, the data show.
At Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility with 1.1 million customers, Frank Prager, vice president for environmental policy, said Sherco is the largest emitter because it's the state's largest power plant.
"There is no commercially viable control equipment capable of reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions," he said in an e-mail. Even so, he added, Sherco has invested in controls for other pollutants. Xcel also is on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 through the use of renewable energy, conservation programs and conversion of other coal power plants to natural gas, he said.
Gina McCarthy, the top air official at the EPA, said the data- base marked "a major milestone" in the agency's work to address climate change.
The Obama administration plans to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases under existing law. A proposed regulation to address pollution from new power plants could be released as early as this month.
The largest emitter nationwide, data showed, was the Scherer power plant in Juliette, Ga., owned by Southern Co. That coal-fired power plant reported releasing nearly 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. Two other Southern plants were the second- and third-largest polluters: a coal-fired plant in Cartersville, Ga., and another in Quinton, Ala.
American Electric Power has three power plants in the top 20: in Rockport, Ind., Cheshire, Ohio, and St. Albans, W.Va.
Star Tribune staff writer David Shaffer contributed to this report.