Coal mining 2nd biggest source of WV greenhouse gases in 2011 - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Coal mining 2nd biggest source of WV greenhouse gases in 2011

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It's well known the power industry is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the first two years of federal data show that that was true in West Virginia in 2010 and 2011.

But the second biggest emitter in West Virginia is not natural gas, as some might think, according to data that industry submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time for 2011 and released Feb. 5.

It's coal — much of that industry also reporting for the first time in 2011.

In 2010, the top 10 emitters in West Virginia were power plants, with emissions by facility ranging from a high of 14.5 million metric tons "CO2 equivalent" — a measure that makes it possible to combine emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases with varying greenhouse gas potentials into one number, abbreviated as CO2e — down to 1 million tons.

In 2011, Consol Energy's McElroy, Loveridge #22 and Robinson Run mines fell in with those numbers, with emissions from 2 million tons down to 1.4 million tons.

Power plants have their own category on the EPA's facility-level greenhouse gas data website. That totaled 72 million tons in West Virginia in 2011.

"Other" was the second-highest category in 2011. That totaled 8.4 million tons, nearly all of it from coal.

New reporters in 2011 included 59 underground coal mines, with a total of 8 million metric tons CO2e.

Consol Energy's McElroy Mine in Marshall County reported emissions of 2 million metric tons CO2e, primarily in the form of methane vented at the mine. Consol's Loveridge 22 Mine in Marion County reported 1.4 million tons and its Robinson Run Mine in Marion County reported 1.2 million tons, both also primarily vented methane.

Next largest was Arch Coal's Mingo Logan Coal Co. in Logan County, with 0.6 million tons CO2e vented methane.

The number of facilities reporting in the category "Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems" rose from 9 to 20 in 2011, increasing the total emissions reported from 0.3 to 1.2 million tons. Largest additions include emissions reported by two natural gas local distribution companies — Mountaineer Gas and Dominion Hope — with 0.5 million metric tons CO2e together.

Reporting does not include measurements of the methane some assert escapes at wells after hydraulic fracturing, which the EPA now subjects to flaring or capture for use.

In total, reporting West Virginia facilities emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 87.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011.

Reported emissions are up 8 million metric tons from 2010's 79 million tons, but the two numbers cannot be compared directly because of the new industries that were added and the redefinition of some categories.

In both years, power plants represented the vast majority of emissions: 83 percent in 2011, when the larger number of industries reported.