Air Pollution: Emissions from Older Electricity Generating Units

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Although fossil fuels--coal, natural gas, and oil--account for more than two thirds of the nation's electricity, generating units that burn these fuels are major sources of airborne emissions that pose health and environmental risks. To limit emissions and protect air quality, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from a variety of sources including electricity generating units that burn fossil fuels, other industrial sources, and automobiles. Older electricity generating units--those that began operating before 1972--emit 59 percent of the sulfur dioxide, ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. June 12, 2002.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Although fossil fuels--coal, natural gas, and oil--account for more than two thirds of the nation's electricity, generating units that burn these fuels are major sources of airborne emissions that pose health and environmental risks. To limit emissions and protect air quality, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from a variety of sources including electricity generating units that burn fossil fuels, other industrial sources, and automobiles. Older electricity generating units--those that began operating before 1972--emit 59 percent of the sulfur dioxide, 47 percent of the nitrogen oxides, and 42 percent of all electricity produced by fossil-fuel units. Units that began operating in or after 1972 are responsible for the remainder of the emissions and electricity production. For equal quantities of electricity generated, older units, in the aggregate, emitted twice as much sulfur dioxide and 25 percent more nitrogen oxides than newer units which must meet the new source standards for these substances. Older and newer units emitted about the same amount of carbon dioxide for equal quantities of electricity generated. Of the older units, those in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southeast produced the majority of the emissions, and in disproportionate quantities for the amount of electricity they generated compared with units located in other parts of the country. Older units that burned coal released a disproportionate share of emissions for the electricity they produced compared with units burning natural gas and oil. Thirty-six percent of older units, in 2000, emitted sulfur dioxide at levels above the new source standards applicable to newer units, and 73 percent emitted nitrogen oxides at levels above the standards. These "additional" emissions--those above the standards for newer units--accounted for 34 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 60 percent of the nitrogen oxides produced by older units. Coal-burning units emitted 99 percent of the additional sulfur dioxide and 91 percent of the additional nitrogen oxides, while other fossil fuel-burning units accounted for the remainder."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • June 12, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Air Pollution: Emissions from Older Electricity Generating Units, report, June 12, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291255/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.