New York avoids dirty coal top 100 list

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

Western New York may have the top greenhouse gas producers in the state, but the three coal plants don’t rank as high when compared with others across the country, according to a report from Environment America Research and Policy Center.

The report ranks the top 100 worst greenhouse gas polluters, none of which is in New York. The report also provides some context to why President Obama is targeting coal-fired power plants as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“In 2011, the U.S. power sector contributed 41 percent of all U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading pollutant driving global warming,” the report says.

This ranking didn’t surprise me because none of the three coal plants in this region runs at anywhere near full capacity. Here’s my report from July that shows the coal plant in Somerset was New York’s top greenhouse gas producer and explains why the coal plants here are struggling.

The report does rank the top five carbon dirtiest coal plants in New York: Somerset, Northport Power Station in Northport, Dunkirk Generating Plant, Ravenswood Generating Station in Queens, and East River Generating Station in Lower Manhattan.

Another important point to make is New York is not heavily reliant on coal. Only 3 percent of the power generated in New York last year was from coal.

The coal plants in this region —Dunkirk, Somerset and Huntley — each emitted less greenhouse gases in 2011 when compared to 2010 data.

Here’s the breakdown:

Somerset (Niagara)

2011: 3.42 million metric tons

2010:  3.99 million metric tons

A difference of 569,264 metric tons


2011: 2.03 million metric tons

2010: 2.79 metric tons

A difference of 767,757 metric tons

Huntley (Tonawanda)

2011: 1.49 million metric tons

2010: 2.07 million metric tons

A difference of 580,414 metric tons

The report states that about 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions in 2011 came from the 50 dirtiest power plants; about half came from the 100 dirtiest plants; and about 90 percent came from the 500 dirtiest plants.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 12.14.04 PM

Power plans account for the majority of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Credit: Environment America


For comparison, let’s look at the top 3 in the country:

Scherer (Georgia)

2011: 22.067 million metric tons

2010: 22.978 million metric tons

A difference of 911,088 metric tons

James H. Miller Jr. (Alabama)

2011: 22.061 million metric tons

2010: 2.0752 million metric tons

An increase of 1.308 million metric tons

Martin Lake (Texas)

2011: 18.448 million metric tons

2010: 18.701 million metric tons

A difference of 253,205 tons