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Central Ohio businesses emit fewer greenhouse gases

Scott Miller quoted

Spencer Hunt, The Columbus Dispatch Nov 4, 2013


Central Ohio businesses emit fewer greenhouse gases

Scott Miller quoted

Spencer Hunt, The Columbus Dispatch November 4, 2013

Dispatch Business GHG Story credit Eric Albrecht

Photo Credit: Eric Albrecht, The Columbus Dispatch

Emissions of key greenhouse gases across central Ohio decreased by 27 percent from 2010 to 2012, according to a Dispatch analysis of federal data.

Central Ohio outpaced both the state, which posted a 15.1 percent reduction in carbon dioxide, methane and other gases linked to climate change over the same period, and the nation, where there was an overall decrease of 4.8 percent.

The data came from 21 central Ohio businesses, utilities and landfills that file annual reports with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal data do not include the millions of tons of carbon dioxide released each year by cars and trucks. The U.S. EPA inventory, created in 2010, tracks only industrial pollutants.

The biggest driver for reductions were power companies that saved money by increasingly burning cheap natural gas instead of coal to make electricity. Natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide as coal.

"Utilities are not doing this because they care about greenhouse gases," said Scott Miller, the director of the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment at Ohio University. "They are doing this because it makes good business sense."

Central Ohio also saw big cuts in methane leaks from landfills. In 2010, the Franklin County Landfill released 227,457 tons of "carbon-dioxide equivalents," which made it central Ohio's top climate-change polluter. Two years later, the landfill released 106,880 tons.

Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio officials attribute the 53 percent reduction to a decision to drill more collector wells into the garbage, which help funnel the gas to an incinerator. There were 137 such collector wells in 2010, and there are 177 now.

"That's made a definite impact," said Paul Flory, the landfill's environmental-compliance manager.

Instead of burning the gas, authority officials say they plan to sell it as soon as May for use as fuel for home furnaces, trucks and cars.

The Pine Grove Landfill near Amanda in Fairfield County installed 85 wells and an incinerator to cut its emissions from 224,162 tons in 2010 to 52,597 tons last year. The landfill reductions leave Ohio State University as central Ohio's No. 1 climate-change polluter. The university burns natural gas to help heat more than 450 buildings and released 157,881 tons of carbon dioxide in 2012. That represents a 9 percent decrease from 2010.

Scott Potter, Ohio State's senior energy adviser, said the university began to drastically cut carbon pollution in 2006 when it switched from coal to natural gas.

"If we got extremely green, I would still not be surprised to see us at or near the top," Potter said. "We use as much power as a small city."

Tougher federal limits on smog and mercury pollution also have prompted plant shutdowns.

AEP spokeswoman Tammy Ridout said the Picway plant in Pickaway County operates only in the summer, when electricity demand peaks. It is slated to close in 2015.

Picway's carbon-dioxide output dropped 93 percent from 2010. It emitted 5,480 tons last year.