New Report Identifies 'Dirty Dozen' Climate Polluters in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania | WDIY Local News
A new environmental report details how the Lehigh Valley has contributed to Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, titled “Pennsylvania’s Dirty Dozen,” was released by the nonprofit PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center on Tuesday.
The Lehigh Valley region, made up of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties, was the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Pennsylvania, according to the report.
It trailed only the Pittsburgh/Southwestern Pennsylvania region (44% of total greenhouse gas emissions) and Harrisburg-Lancaster-York (14% of total emissions.)
The Lehigh Valley region made up 12% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions and emitted 13,510,333 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which is used to measure and standardize greenhouse gas emissions.
Pennsylvania overall produced the fourth most greenhouse gas emissions in the country, behind Texas, California and Florida, emitting 248.13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, or around 4.1% of the U.S. total gas emissions.
None of Pennsylvania’s “Dirty Dozen” climate polluters, largely power plants, are located in the Lehigh Valley.
According to the report’s data, these 12 facilities released nearly 46 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2021, around 18% of the state’s total gas emissions for 2020 – the last year for which PennEnvironment said it has complete statistics.
Topping the overall “Dirty Dozen” list was the Keystone Generating Station in Armstrong County, which produced 7,267,256 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The report said this pollution was equivalent to driving 18 billion miles, or making 724,000 trips around the globe in an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle.
However, two Northampton County facilities, were listed among the state’s top 12 greenhouse gas-emitting industrial polluters.
Keystone Cement Co. in Bath placed 10th, emitting over 697,880 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
Lehigh Cement Co.’s Nazareth plant was ranked 11th, with 679,570 metric tons of direct emissions.
Topping the “Dirty Dozen” industrial facilities list was U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Steel Works in Allegheny County, which emitted 3,661,557 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
PennEnvironment also released a list of the top 12 most polluting facilities in the Lehigh Valley region. Five of the facilities are located in Northampton County:
- Lower Mount Bethel Energy, Bangor, 1,644,980 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents
- Calpine Bethlehem Energy Center, Bethlehem, 1,518,360 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents
- Keystone Cement Co., Bath, 697,880 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents
- Lehigh Cement Co.’s Nazareth Plant, Nazareth, 679,570 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents
- Hercules Cement Stockertown Plant Quarry, Stockertown, 582,535 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents
One is located in Lehigh County – the Lafarge North America Whitehall Cement Plant, which produced 376,170 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
The top polluter in the greater Lehigh Valley was the Ontelaunee Energy Center in Reading, Berks County, which produced 1.671,349 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
The report said this facility, while not included in the “Dirty Dozen,” produces “GHG emissions equivalent to 4 billion miles of driving by the average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle.”
PennEnvironment included similar breakdowns of the top greenhouse gas emitters for Pennsylvania’s other regions.
Pennsylvania’s top causes of greenhouse gas pollution were power plants, waste management, petroleum and natural gas facilities, metal manufacturers, and the minerals sector.
PennEnvironment’s report said the state must pursue “a long-term and large-scale transition away from the use of fossil fuels, and toward sources that emit low or zero GHGs,” noting the effects of global warming and climate change on Pennsylvania’s weather.
Examples include a 2-degree Fahrenheit hotter temperature today than at the beginning of the century, and an average of almost five more inches of rain annually between 2001-2020, compared to the period from 1971-2000.
The report also said that without curbing greenhouse gas pollution, heatwave will become more frequent, flooding risks will increase, and sea level rise could damage infrastructures and ecosystems.
It recommends several steps to reduce the state’s contribution to global warming, including:
- Accelerating the transition to clean, renewable energy
- Shifting homes, businesses, the transportation and industrial sectors away from fossil fuels,
- Continuing Pennsylvania’s participation and commitment to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
- Strengthening enforcement of clean air laws
- Encouraging environmentally responsible decarbonization of industry
(Original air-date: 5/9/23)