That means individuals, communities and companies can see how much global warming pollution is being produced by facilities in their areas. But the data only covers the nation's largest polluters -- those generating 25,000 metric tonnes or more of carbon dioxide equivalent. Power plants and petroleum refineries represent the largest stationary emissions sources.
"Our hope is that people outside the EPA and outside the federal government will use this data as a powerful resource for better decision making, and in the end, use the data in ways that we here at the EPA have not even contemplated," said Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator, during a conference call today with reporters. "What we can bank on is that better information will always lead to a better informed public, which will lead to better environmental protection.
The data publication tool covers 2010 calendar data from more than 6,700 facilities, equal to about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions. Users can search and download data by facility, location, sector and type of greenhouse gas. Facilities in nine sectors are now covered, including power plants, refineries, steel mills and cement producers.
"This publicly available data enriches and empowers all of us who want to identify opportunities for reducing greenhouse gases," McCarthy said. "The data can be used by communities to identify nearby sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
"It can be used by facilities to compare their emissions to similar operations to see where they may be cost-effective opportunities for reductions. It can be used by businesses to track their own emissions over time and to monitor their greenhouse gas reduction success."
Twelve additional industry groups will begin reporting data for the first time this year for the program, which the EPA was ordered to create by Congress in 2008. Also on the horizon, the agency will work to verify and refine the data.
"Next month we'll open electronic reporting so facilities can begin reporting 2011 data," McCarthy said. "We look forward to the second year of data so we can start tracking emissions trends for the first time."
Power plant image via Shutterstock.