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EPA Releases 2018 Power Plant Emissions Demonstrating Continued Progress

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WASHINGTON  — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released preliminary data on 2018 emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants in the lower 48 states. This data shows a decline in both NOx and SO2 emissions compared to 2017.

“These data show that America is enjoying ever cleaner air as our economy grows, and the U.S. continues as a global leader in clean air progress,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum. “Through state and federal fulfillment of the Clean Air Act, and advances by the power sector, we’ve seen significant reductions in key pollutants while electricity generation has increased.”

The data shows a 4 percent decline in NOx emissions compared to 2017, and a 6 percent decline in SO2. Annual CO2 from power plants rose by just 0.6 percent during the same time period, even while electric generation increased by 5 percent.

From 1990-2018, annual emissions of SO2 from power plants fell by 92 percent and annual emissions of NOx from power plants fell by 84 percent. Total 2018 annual emissions were 1.26 million tons for SO2 and 1.02 million tons for NOx.

These data support longer term trends in air quality progress. For example:

  • From 1970 to 2017, the combined emissions of the six key pollutants regulated under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards dropped by 73 percent, while the U.S. economy grew more than 260 percent and the population continued to expand.
  • Over the last decade, concentrations of sulfur dioxide have fallen by over 75 percent in the U.S.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants dropped by roughly 20 percent since 2011.
  • For power plants that EPA and states regulate to address cross-border ozone contributions, NOx emissions dropped by over 20 percent between the 2016 and 2018 ozone seasons.

As part of EPA’s commitment to provide the public with access to high quality, relevant and useful information on the power sector, all of the data collected by EPA is posted online and accessible to the public. EPA collects detailed SO2, NOX, and CO2 emission data and other information from power plants across the country, as part of Acid Rain Program, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the CSAPR Update Rule.

EPA has updated our Power Plant Emission Trends webpage with data from 2018. These pages offer charts, maps and summary tables of the most recent emission data and other information on power plants. Providing the recently reported 2018 emission data from power plants across the country in multiple formats helps the public understand how SO2, NOx and CO2 emissions from power plants are changing and when and where changes have occurred.

EPA also offers tools like the Power Profiler that enable people or organizations to plug in their zip code to learn emission rates and fuel mix for any part of the US, and also calculate emissions from their own electricity consumption.

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