MidAmerican coal plants in Utah, Wyoming lead California's first annual emissions count

By Colin Sullivan
Friday, November 20, 2009


SAN FRANCISCO -- It's official: The heaviest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases counted by California's regulators as having an impact on the state's economy are owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The state's Air Resources Board this week released its first-ever annual emissions report, which compiled greenhouse gas data from all stationary sources that contributed more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2008 to California's emissions total. The report was mandated under the state's climate change law, A.B. 32.

Five coal-fired power plants owned by a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., and operated by Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, easily outdistanced all other emitters surveyed. All five plants would be subject to the carbon cuts (or market mechanisms) called for by A.B. 32, to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The power stations are based in Utah and Wyoming, but they are counted by California's regulators because they export electricity into California. Ranked by metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), they are:

  • PacifiCorp's Jim Bridger plant in Point of Rocks, Wyo., at 15,293,640 metric tons of CO2e in 2008.
  • PacifiCorp's Hunter plant in Castle Dale, Utah, at 10,357,884 tons of CO2e.
  • PacifiCorp's Dave Johnston plant in Glenrock, Wyo., at 6,459,261 tons of CO2e.
  • PacifiCorp's Huntington plant in Huntington, Utah, at 6,670,629 tons of CO2e.
  • PacifiCorp's Naughton plant in Kemmerer, Wyo., at 5,403,772 tons of CO2e.

Electric facilities operating within California posted relatively lower emissions totals because of a widespread preference for natural gas. Of power plants run in the state, the highest emitters were all fired by gas: Dynegy's Moss Landing plant (2,962,148 tons of CO2e); Southern California Edison's station in Redlands, Calif. (2,697,142 tons of CO2e); and La Paloma Generating Co.'s facility in McKittrick, Calif. (2,544,398 tons of CO2e).

The highest emitters operating within the state were all petroleum refiners. They are:

  • Chevron Products Co.'s refinery, in Richmond, Calif., at 4,792,052 metric tons of CO2e.
  • Shell Oil Products' refinery in Martinez, Calif., at 4,570,475 tons of CO2e.
  • BP West Coast Products' refinery in Carson, Calif., at 4,504,286 tons of CO2e.
  • Another Chevron refinery, in El Segundo, Calif., at 3,603,446 tons of CO2e.
  • Exxon Mobil's refinery in Torrance, Calif., at 2,852,374 tons of CO2e.

Aside from electricity and refining, the top industrial emitter in the state was a cement plant owned by Cemex in Victorville, Calif. Its contribution was 2,223,603 metric tons of CO2e in 2008.

Air board creates a mew career path: GHG verifiers

ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols was pleased with the report and called the agency's first mandated emissions survey a success. Air board staff said more than 97 percent of the state's 600 large stationary sources complied with the mandatory reporting requirements.

To date, 591 out of 605 facilities that were required to comply have completed their greenhouse gas emissions reports for 2008. The air board is working with the remaining facilities to complete their reporting by early December.

The agency also announced that California has accredited third-party professionals to verify emissions, making it the first state to do so formally. The air board has graduated 101 individuals and 17 businesses as accredited emissions verifiers.

The graduates had to complete a 40-hour course and a final exam. Verification of all reported emissions will be required starting next year.

The air board wants to certify 200 individuals as verifiers by the end of 2009.

ARB spokesman Stanley Young said the plan is to eventually retire use of coal from out-of-state sources. By law, all new energy contracts for terms that exceed five years cannot exceed the emissions from a gas-fired plant.

"This essentially precludes coal-fired generation sources for long-term contracts," Young said.

Much of the imported power would, in theory, be replaced by new generation powered by renewable sources.

Click here to view the air board's database of emissions for 2008

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