NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Finds Vast Disparity in Utility Emissions

March 21, 2002

Two environmental organizations and a New Jersey utility are issuing a study designed to influence the debate over revisions to air pollution rules. The study attempts to rank --from greatest to lowest -- polluters in the power industry.

It concludes, "that a large number of companies are relatively clean, and a relatively small number are responsible for the vast portion of emissions."

The study is based on publicly available emissions data and results from a collaboration between three environmental groups.

Not surprisingly, the greatest polluters tend to be the companies that have the most power plants and generate the most electricity.

  • The three largest electricity companies in the U.S. -- American Electric Power, the Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority -- together accounted for 17 to 24 percent of total industry emissions of the four pollutants tracked in the study.
  • When companies are ranked on the amount of pollution produced relative to their power output, small or mid-sized companies are sometimes singled out.
  • Companies that use natural gas or nuclear fuel usually get higher marks than those run on coal -- again, no surprise.
  • Spokespersons for some of the companies that fared poorly in the study contend that it represented a snapshot in time -- not a chart of the progress they have made over the past decade or so in cleaning up their emissions.

Source: Neela Banerjee, "Study Ranking Utility Polluters Aims to Sway Emissions Debate," New York Times, March 21, 2002; , Michael Walker "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Generation Owners in the U.S. -- 2000," March 2002, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES).


Browse more articles on Environment Issues