Photos: The 100 dirtiest power plants in America -- including two in Colorado

At this hour, Environment Colorado is issuing "America's Dirtiest Power Plants," an eye-opening report (see it below) that includes the organization's picks for the one-hundred most-polluting facilities in the country -- and two from Colorado make the less-than-proud cut. An Environment Colorado rep notes that the data is timely given what many scientists see as a link between pollutants and events like this month's devastating flooding in the state. But she stresses that the proximity of the report's release to the ecological disaster was coincidental.

"The report has been in the works for a long time," says Margaret McCall, an energy associate with Environment Colorado. Moreover, she stresses that making the announcement right after the floods "is something we've been thinking about a lot. It's hard to negotiate a situation like this. The report's coming out now because this Friday, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is set to announce standards for new power plants. But the flooding is a sad reminder that these things are happening all the time."

The following excerpt from the report's executive summary establishes the tenor of the document. It reads in part:
Global warming is one of the most profound threats of our time, and we're already starting to feel the impacts -- especially when it comes to extreme weather. From Hurricane Sandy to devastating droughts and deadly heat waves, extreme weather events threaten our safety, our health and our environment, and scientists predict things will only get worse for future generations unless we cut the dangerous global warming pollution that is fueling the problem. Power plants are the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States, responsible for 41 percent of the nation's production of carbon dioxide pollution, the leading greenhouse gas driving global warming.

America's power plants are among the most significant sources of carbon dioxide pollution in the world. The 50 most-polluting U.S. power plants emit more than 2 percent of the world's energy-related carbon dioxide pollution -- or more pollution than every nation except six worldwide.

Also included are graphics like this one, which establishes the role of power plants in America's overall carbon output....

...and an illustrated comparison of carbon dioxide pollution emitted by the fifty dirtiest power plants to other countries: Still, the grabbiest part of the presentation is likely the list of the one-hundred most polluting power plants, led by the Georgia Power Company's Scherer facility, a coal-powered plant responsible for 21.3 metric tons of emissions per annum according to 2011 figures -- the equivalent of 4.44 million vehicles.

What about Colorado plants?

Continue for more about the dirtiest power plants report, including another photo and the complete document. "The top two most polluting plants in Colorado are the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association plant in Craig, which comes in at number 55, and the Comanche plant in Pueblo, at 89," McCall says.

In addition, the report lists the top five most polluting power plants within Colorado. Following Tri-State and Comanche are three owned by Public Service Co. of Colorado: the Cherokee generating station just north of Denver, plus the Pawnee plant near Brush and a facility located near Hayden. Public Service also owns Comanche.

The Cherokee plant is scheduled for retirement, and while plenty of environmentalists wish the same was true of every polluter on the list, McCall understands that's not realistic in the short term.

"We don't want to say it's all or nothing," she notes. "We would like to see the complete transition to clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar. But a huge step we can take is cleaning up power plants like these, just by making sure that instead of emitting all of this carbon into the atmosphere, it's largely recaptured.

"We have this huge opportunity to make these plants as good as we can while working with what we have," she adds, "and working toward the point where we just don't need coal-powered plants anymore."

The EPA standards for new power plants due for announcement later this week are a step in that direction, McCall believes, and she's looking forward to regulations for existing plants, expected in the middle of next year. And if government types want to start cracking down on the worst polluting plants, they now know where to start. Referring to the Environment Colorado list, she says to regulators, "Hey -- check these guys out."

Here's the complete report.

America's Dirtiest Power Plants Report

More from our News archive: "Videos: Startling aerial footage of flooding in Lyons, Longmont."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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