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We’re leading an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

Is EPA Going Easy on a Gas Plant in Your Community?

EPA’s carbon pollution standards cover only 5 percent of existing gas power plants nationwide, leaving thousands of gas plants across the U.S. spewing carbon pollution unchecked.

A gas power plant in the Arizona desert. The photo has a red and orange filter.
The Gila River Power Station in Arizona, and many other gas plants nationwide, would emit hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 annually under EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards.© 2011 Alan Stark/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


On April 25, 2024, EPA finalized the first-ever power plant pollution standards for the existing U.S. coal fleet and newly proposed gas plants, with most covered plants required to cut their pollution by 90 percent by 2032. Together, these rules are estimated to curb over 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon pollution and create $270 billion in climate benefits and $120 billion in public health benefits. The proposed rule covering existing gas plants is still forthcoming, and it represents a major opportunity to cover the last unregulated source of power plant pollution.

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When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed its landmark carbon pollution standards for power plants earlier this year, it left out one big chunk of the fleet: 95 percent of fossil gas plants.

In its pollution regulation for existing gas plants, EPA chose to cover only the biggest, hardest-running plants (with units above 300 megawatts that run at least half the year)—and leave the vast majority of plants totally unregulated. But these unregulated plants contribute a huge portion of climate pollution and the local health pollution harming fenceline communities around the country. And many giant plants are expected to skirt regulations by running less than 50 percent of the time.

We ran the numbers, and if EPA doesn’t strengthen its proposal before finalizing it next year, thousands of gas plants around the country will continue to spew an unchecked amount of carbon pollution into the atmosphere.


So Where Are These Missing Plants?

This is a big map (with thousands of gas plants)! It may take a minute to load.


Unfortunately, they are all over. Analysis of 2022 S&P Global Market Intelligence data by Evergreen and NRDC shows that we can expect EPA’s regulation as proposed to cover only 5.2 percent of gas “electric generating units” when it takes effect in 2035. These 5.2 percent of units represent 22 percent of the gas fleet’s power-generating capacity. Since so few plants are covered, there are thousands of unregulated gas plants spread around the country.

In fact, every single state in the country except for Hawai’i and Vermont would have an unregulated gas plant in its borders. And those two states are excluded only because they don’t have any gas plants in the first place.

Additionally, 26 states and D.C. don’t have a single gas plant covered by the rule. That means every single fossil gas plant within these states and D.C. would face no federal limit on its carbon pollution unless EPA strengthens its rule. Those states include:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming


Many of the Biggest Gas Plants Would See No Regulation

These pollution behemoths create enough power for hundreds of thousands of homes on their own—and can each pollute over a million tons of carbon dioxide every year into the air. 

Too often, these plants have been built near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Our communities deserve better than to breathe in the pollution of unregulated gas plants. These are the ten largest gas plants in the country that would avoid all regulation:

  1. Gila River Project, Gila Bend, AZ (2.47 GW | 646k tons CO2/year)
  2. Union Power Facility, El Dorado, AR (2.42 GW | 751k tons CO2/year)
  3. Sanford CC, DeBary, FL (2.37 GW | 517k tons CO2/year)
  4. Hines Energy Complex, Bartow, FL (2.26 GW | 487k tons CO2/year)
  5. H.L. Culbreath Bayside, Tampa, FL (2.01 GW | 506k tons CO2/year)
  6. Crystal River Citrus County, Crystal River, FL (1.97 GW | 1.18 million tons CO2/year)
  7. Midland Cogeneration Venture, Midland, MI (1.84 GW | emissions data unavailable)
  8. Ravenswood, Long Island City, NY (1.82 GW | 124k tons CO2/year)
  9. Sabine, Orange, TX (1.81 GW | 642k tons CO2/year)
  10. Ninemile, Westwego, LA (1.79 GW | 1.22 million tons CO2/year)


Why Regulating These Gas Plants Matters

Power plants emit a lot of pollution. Fully one-quarter of climate pollution from across the U.S. economy comes from existing power plants. 

In 2022, existing gas plants emitted 43 percent of power-sector carbon pollution, with coal plants producing most of the rest. However, by 2035, when EPA’s rules for existing plants are set to take effect, that percentage will be far higher. That’s because the majority of the nation’s old, expensive coal plants are scheduled to retire before 2035 for economic reasons. 

That means that by 2035, existing gas plants are expected to make up the vast majority of fossil power plants and are likely to be the dominant source of carbon pollution on the grid. 

Existing gas plants are set to emit 74 percent of power sector greenhouse gas emissions, according to EPA’s baseline projections for 2035. Three-quarters.

By neglecting to regulate the emissions of 95 percent of existing gas plants, EPA is leaving nearly three-quarters of power-sector carbon pollution completely uncovered by these rules. That is a dereliction of duty.


What Can We Do About It? 

It’s clear that EPA can do much better. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has an obligation to protect Americans’ health and welfare from carbon pollution from power plants. That obligation does not exclude gas plants—even if power companies are lobbying against their regulation.

In August, we publicized how the Edison Electric Institute (EEI, the lobbying group for power companies around the country) was conducting a shady, undercover campaign to defeat EPA’s climate rules and exclude all gas plants from regulation. In response, thousands of advocates contacted their power companies to tell them to break with EEI and support common-sense climate action. While some of these companies decided to support EPA action, the Edison Electric Institute isn’t stopping its lobbying to weaken these crucial climate regulations. So we won’t stop either.

We need to tell the Biden administration: Don’t go easy on fossil gas. Despite utility companies crying wolf that EPA has gone too far—something they claim about every single regulation—these rules as proposed are already eminently achievable and should be strengthened. After all, only 5 percent of existing gas plants would even be covered.

We need to regulate more gas plants, not fewer, so we can stop the worst effects of climate change and air pollution. Communities breathing gas plant pollution in nearly every state are depending on it.