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EPA’s 2019 Power Plant Emissions Data Demonstrate Significant Progress

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WASHINGTON (Feb.19, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released preliminary data on 2019 emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and mercury (Hg) from power plants in the lower 48 states. This data shows a marked decline in emissions of these pollutants compared to 2018.

“Under President Trump, our economy continues to grow, and we are enjoying ever-improving air quality,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through state and federal fulfillment of the Clean Air Act, as well as advances by the power sector, we have seen significant reductions in key pollutants. Notably, annual emissions of SO2 from the power sector fell 23 percent and are below 1 million tons for the first time in modern history.”

For the first time since the start of the Acid Rain Program (ARP), annual emissions of SO2 and NOX emissions are both under a million tons. The annual data show a 23 percent decline in SO2 emissions compared to 2018, a 14 percent decline in NOX emissions, an 8 percent decline in CO2 emissions, and a 13 percent decrease in Hg emissions. Additionally, ozone season NOX emissions dropped by 13 percent. During this time period, electric generation from these power plants decreased by 3 percent.

From 1990-2019, annual emissions of SO2 from power plants fell by 94 percent and annual emissions of NOX from power plants fell by 86 percent. In 2019, sources in both the CSAPR SO2 annual program and the ARP together emitted 0.97 million tons, a reduction of 14.8 million tons, or 94 percent, from 1990 levels. In 2019, sources in both the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) NOX annual program and the ARP together emitted 0.88 million tons, a reduction of 5.5 million tons, or 86 percent, from 1990 levels.

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

  • From 1990 to 2017, the combined emissions of the six key pollutants regulated under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards dropped by 52 percent. At the same time the U.S. economy grew and the population continued to expand.
  • Over the last decade, concentrations of sulfur dioxide have fallen by over 75 percent in the U.S. Regional average concentrations of average ambient SO2 declined 93 percent from the 1989-1991 to the 2016-2018 observation periods.
  • The Agency’s latest report found that greenhouse gas emissions from power plants dropped by roughly 20 percent since 2011.

As part of EPA’s commitment to provide the public with access to high quality, relevant, and useful information on the power sector, all data collected by EPA is posted online and accessible to the public. EPA collects detailed SO2, NOX, CO2, and Hg emission data and other information from power plants across the country.

EPA has updated our Power Plant Emission Trends webpage with data from 2019. These pages offer charts, maps and summary tables of the most recent emission data and other information on power plants.