Wyoming top in CO2 per person amid new regulations

2014-02-28T08:00:00Z Wyoming top in CO2 per person amid new regulationsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 28, 2014 8:00 am  • 

CHEYENNE — Turns out the worst state for carbon dioxide emissions per person isn't smoggy California or bustling New York, but a place famous for its big, clear skies: Wyoming.

But regulating greenhouse gases is a touchy subject in the least-populated state, which just recently received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval to do so.

Wyoming also is the top coal-mining state by far, producing almost 40 percent of the nation's coal. Burning coal to generate electricity produces large amounts of CO2 — in Wyoming, across the U.S., and in the Far Eastern countries where state officials have sought to open up new coal markets.

Gov. Matt Mead made such a trip to Taiwan and South Korea last year. Meanwhile, he's called EPA efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions a "war on coal" and said at a recent forum he's skeptical about man-made climate change.

"What he also says is we do have a responsibility to always do things better," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Thursday. "The coal industry has to be profitable if it's going to invest in the research and development of new technologies."

MacKay highlighted the state's efforts to make its coal cleaner: $50 million allocated toward new coal-burning technology at the University of Wyoming and plans by the state to support a proposed $10 million X Prize to develop economically feasible carbon-capture technology at an operational coal-fired power plant.

He said the EPA shouldn't impose rules that cripple coal-fired electricity by requiring still-unattainable greenhouse reductions, but, instead, should gradually implement rules as new technologies to cut carbon emissions become available.

The stakes for Wyoming are high. Minerals taxes on coal provided $1 billion to the state and local governments in 2012 and coal mining supports some 6,900 jobs in the state.

Last year, Wyoming's coal production fell 3 percent amid more stringent environmental regulations and inexpensive natural gas, a cleaner fuel source in growing use by electric utilities.

Meanwhile, per person, Wyoming faces an outsized challenge to regulate greenhouse gases on a shorter timeframe than breakthrough technologies are likely to allow.

In 2011, Wyoming emitted 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Spread out over the smallest population of any state — about 568,000 people lived in Wyoming in 2011 — that works out to more than 112 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person, or more than six times the national average.

Burning coal — nearly all of it to make electricity — accounted for 69.2 percent of Wyoming's CO2 emissions, twice the U.S. average.

Only West Virginia (80.9 percent) and North Dakota (69.4 percent) had more of their CO2 emissions come from coal.

Wyoming residents aren't solely responsible for all of those emissions. Wyoming exports to other states about 68 percent more electricity than it consumes in state.

"Certainly other states, to put it mildly, they have blood on their hands as well," Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians said Thursday.

The group has two active lawsuits opposing coal mining in Wyoming on climate-change grounds.

In December, Wyoming became one of the last several states to get EPA approval to regulate greenhouse gases. For over a year and a half, the EPA regulated greenhouse emissions in Wyoming while the state regulated other types of air emissions, a "dual permitting" process that resulted from a 1999 state law that said Wyoming wouldn't enact any regulation reducing greenhouse gases.

The Legislature repealed the law over the last two years.

State regulators say they're still waiting to see many details of how the EPA intends to regulate greenhouse emissions, including possible new rules for existing power plants, said Steve Dietrich, head of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Division.

Other states with high per-capita CO2 emissions included North Dakota, at about 78 metric tons per person, followed by Alaska (53) and West Virginia (52).

Vermont, California and Connecticut had the fewest emissions per person, all with just above 9 metric tons per capita.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. lazydotranch
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    lazydotranch - February 28, 2014 6:01 pm
    By the same token, Wyoming's large coal reserves in the ground make it a the leader in carbon sequestration.
  2. Czolgosz
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    Czolgosz - February 28, 2014 2:24 pm
    Where you been for the past 30 years, huh?
  3. Campbell
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    Campbell - February 28, 2014 2:23 pm
    That is exactly how I feel, Marley.
  4. Marley
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    Marley - February 28, 2014 1:46 pm
    This is the epitome of propaganda or proof positive the media will print anything. It is impossible for Wyoming, with less than one million people, to contribute more CO2 to the atmosphere than a state like California with 30+ million people. The only way to get the answer you obviously wanted was to do a totally dishonest "per capita" statistic. It is a flagrant misuse of statistics. You wonder why people don't believe in global warming--anyone who has even a minimal understanding of statics realizes this is so incredibly dishonest that there is reason to question everything said. I am appalled that such flagrant dishonesty passes for journalism.
  5. Campbell
    Report Abuse
    Campbell - February 28, 2014 12:23 pm
    I will not shoot the messenger, but I will point out the futility of acting like a bombastic demagogue by sounding insulting and railing against several groups, many of whom may have been on your side. By doing so you come off as ignorant as many of those you vilify. :)

    Climate change does indeed look as if it is happening, the mechanism I am skeptical of. However, I see no problem in trying to be cleaner as a society. But that doesn't mean we can drop our entire economy and stop emitting CO2 overnight, it has to be done thoughtfully and over time so our society does not collapse. :)
  6. Cody Coyote
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    Cody Coyote - February 28, 2014 11:48 am
    I agree that this " per capita CO2" statistic is largely meaningless when applied to Wyoming and it's low population. But that is not to say it is worthless in the larger discussion about Wyoming's role as an enabler or even a perp when it comes to global climate change.

    The debate about CLimate Change being real , with a large component of it being caused by or catalyzed by humans and fossil fuels, is over. The Scientists won. Climate Change deniers are dwindling and their hue and cry is becoming an embarrassing mockery of Modern Times. By which I mean a large segment of our adult population losing its ability to do its own critical thinking, instead submitting to the flacks at Fox News, the kleptocratic dogma of the Koch Bros, the propaganda excretions of the Exxons and Peabody Coals of the world, and worst of all the zealots who preach Creationism and that greatest oxymoron ever foisted on society, Intelligent Design. Collectively , these decidedly anti-scientific anti-common sense anti-pragmatic belief systems are doing their part to make the planet a cemtary for Homo spaiens in short order. The planet will survive, the plants and animals willeventually rejuvenate, but I fear humans are on a path to self-destruction caused by Denial of Science and misguided Faith in a supernatural deity. If there is a God, he is doing a great big Reset of the human race , one combusted carbon molecule at a time. The next Ark had darn well be a spaceship.

    It's well past the time that Wyoming came out of denial to have " The Conversation" about hydrocarbons. Our love and lust of coal, oil, and methane is not really a good thing, nor healthy. Wyoming is a big part of the problem with Climate Change, and as near as I can tell not willing to be even a tiny fraction of any solution. Not with ossified oligarchs like Matt Mead setting the course and stoking the furnaces of fiery rhetoric.

    I'm what most folks would call an Environmentalist with a large "E", without belonging to any green group yet partial to many of them. Don't shoot the messenger. Instead, read the handwriting on that great big wall over there that says" Quit burning fossil fuels and cutting down all the forests and using the oceans for a sewer before it's too late , you ignorant homininds..."
  7. jc45
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    jc45 - February 28, 2014 11:06 am
    Unfortunately the rain forests are rapidly disappearing. I talked to a gentleman recently that had returned to Viet Nam and wanted to see the jungle that he had fought in and was told that it no longer exists as it has been clear cut. I also talked to a lady from the Philippines and she said that was the case there also. We can no longer depend on the rain forests to absorb the Co2 that mankind is producing.
  8. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - February 28, 2014 9:57 am
    co2 makes plants grow. the rain forrest has the highest co2 in the world and no problems except man there. Im with ron paul on this one what a load of pig swallow. this is to shut us down and charge for air? do people really believe in this garbage?
  9. wyotruth
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    wyotruth - February 28, 2014 9:43 am
    we can start by having auto emission standards.
  10. jack wolf
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    jack wolf - February 28, 2014 9:14 am
    Hoping we all pull through - a Pete Seeger message:
  11. Campbell
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    Campbell - February 28, 2014 8:28 am
    What a meaningless statistic for a state like Wyoming. Our population is extremely low. It is going to cost more for services because having a rural population is less efficient cost-wise to get services to. And then as the article says Wyoming exports so much power it makes zero sense to put "all of that carbon on us." Come on, people, find a meaningful way to study climate change indicators and maybe I will pay more attention. I am no climate scientists but I know apples and oranges when I see them.
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