Emissions from power plants in the lower 48 U.S. states fell in 2022, according to annual data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
These emissions were lower despite electricity demand increasing by 2% for these power plants (and by 3% for all electric generation in the first 11 months of 2022). The decline reflects a long-standing trend of decreasing annual emissions.
The EPA primarily cited fuel switching from coal to natural gas in the reduced emission numbers. Data from 2022 showed a 6% decrease in coal generation and a 7% increase in natural gas generation from 2021.
Compared to 2021, the 2022 data showed a 1% decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The 2022 data also showed a 4% decrease in nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions, a 10% decrease in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and a 3% decrease in mercury emissions. Additionally, ozone season (May 1 to September 30) NOX emissions decreased by 10%.
Notably, the EPA said 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.
Earlier in February the EPA affirmed the 2012 finding that regulating hazardous air toxins and mercury from power plants is necessary, a required step toward strengthening air regulations.
The agency is expected to issue a final rule on those pollutants in the next few months.
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