EPA heralds emissions reductions

The US energy sector has continued its long-term trajectory of reduced emissions from power plants, according to the latest data produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Though electricity demand increased by 2% for these power plants (and by 3% for all electric generation in the first 11 months of 2022), emissions decreased from 2021, due primarily to changes in the mix of fuels used in electricity generation.

This reflects the long-standing trend of decreasing annual emissions, the EPA said, as it also released figures from 2022 showing a 6% decrease in coal generation and a 7% increase in natural gas generation from 2021.
“Communities that live near power plants deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as everyone else,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“Our work is far from done, but the data prove we’re on the right path. We’ll continue to work with state, tribal and local leaders, in addition to major players in the private sector, to build on our progress and protect public health.”
Compared to 2021, the 2022 data shows a 4% decrease in nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions, a 10% decrease in sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, a 1% decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and a 3% decrease in mercury emissions. Additionally, ozone season (May 1 to September 30) NOX emissions decreased by 10%. 

Notably, ozone season NOX emissions decreased by 21% in states covered by the current Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which requires additional NOX emission reductions to facilitate attainment of the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Between 1990 and 2022, annual emissions of SO2  from power plants fell by 93% and annual emissions of NOX from power plants fell by 87%. In 2022, sources in both the CSAPR annual program and the Acid Rain Program (ARP) together emitted 0.85 million tons of SO2, a reduction of 11 million tons from 1995 levels.  

Additionally in 2022, sources in these programs together emitted 0.75 million tons of NO x, a 5.1-million-ton reduction from 1995 levels. While complying with programs to reduce SO2, NOx, and mercury, power plants reduced their CO2 emissions by 22% between 1995 and 2022.
In a statement the EPA said: “These long-term declines in power sector emissions reduce air pollution and protect public health. NOX and SO2 emissions contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and particulate matter, which can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can adversely affect growing brains and nervous systems in infants and children, as well as affect the central nervous system and cardiovascular function of adults.”