Durango Telegraph - The best of the worst: San Juan County earns dubious pollution distinction
The best of the worst: San Juan County earns dubious pollution distinction

The nation’s biggest global warming offenders have been identified, and northern New Mexico’s San Juan County has cracked the top 10. The nearby county, which is home to the city of Farmington, two coal-fired power plants, and tens of thousands of oil and gas compressors, was named the sixth-biggest carbon polluter in the U.S. by a recent Purdue University study. This news comes as the county is also approaching a non-attainment designation for ozone pollution.

The carbon dioxide inventory project, known as Vulcan, creates a high-resolution, interactive map of carbon dioxide emissions across the United States. The system, which shows emissions in more than 100 times more detail than was available before, has enabled researchers to better pinpoint sources. This enhanced detail should also greatly enhance efforts to turn back global warming, according to Kevin Gurney, the leader of the project.

“Before now, the only thing policy-makers could do was take a big blunt tool and bang the U.S. economy with it,” he said. “Now we have more quantifiable infor

mation about what is happening in neighborhoods, on roads and in industrial areas, and we can track the CO2 by the hour. This offers policy-makers something akin to a scalpel instead.”

Vulcan determined that San Juan County is emitting 8.25 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. By comparison, Wayne County, home to Detroit, Mich., is credited with 8.27 million tons per year. Harris County, home to Houston, Texas, topped the list of the 20 dirtiest counties at 18.63 million tons of carbon per year.

Carbon dioxide is the most critical human-produced gas contributing to global climate change, and the United States accounts for about 25 percent of global CO2 emissions. It is hoped that Vulcan will help lawmakers better identify sources of CO2 and create policies to combat them.

– Will Sands