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San Antonio’s Top 15 Climate Polluters

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san antonio climate polluters: graph
san antonio climate polluters: comparison

Emissions from San Antonio’s transportation sector as compared to those of the JK Spuce coal plant. 2019 data.

While it’s taken a major recession and, now, a pandemic to significantly slow the United States’ annual climate emissions, one would think that making climate progress with San Antonio climate polluters in our relative fishbowl would be a snap. Right? However, we learned with the release of San Antonio’s 2019 Greenhouse Gas Inventory last month that San Antonio only cut its emissions of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases by .2 percent between 2016 and 2019—in spite of shuttering our oldest, dirtiest coal plant.

Good rule of thumb in this climate convo, always digest the data available with an understanding that it’s a heck of a lot worse than apparent in the moment.

[RELATED: San Antonio’s Top 15 Toxic Polluters]

On this resource page, Deceleration maintains a ranking of the top local climate offenders and provide updates on local progress. We hope that amplifying the changes that are and are not happening will be useful to local organizing efforts.

The closure of “Dirty” JT Deely coal plant in 2018, responsible for an average of 4.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, has been matched by an accompanying rise in industrial and residential gas reliance, inaction by some of our largest private polluters, and a rise in transportation emissions.

[RELATED: Online Pollution Complaint Form]

Here are the top 15 climate polluters in greater San Antonio, based upon the US EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Click on each facility in the map below for location, a brief description, and a decade of facility-specific emissions data.

San Antonio’s Top Climate Polluters

  1. JK Spruce Coal Plant
  2. VH Braunig Gas Plant
  3. Rio Nogales Gas Plant
  4. Alamo San Antonio Cement Plant
  5. OW Sommers Gas Plant
  6. Capitol Cement Plant
  7. Covel Gardens Recycling and Disposal
  8. Tessman Road Landfill
  9. Nelson Gardens Landfill
  10. Leon Creek Gas Plants
  11. San Antonio Refinery, LLC
  12. San Martin Gas Plant
  13. Toyota Manufacturing
  14. Lackland AFB
  15. CPS Energy Natural Gas Distribution System

Click the slider icon at the very top left corner of the map for a quick overview of facilities.

In Bexar County, coal-related pollution slid from 15.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2011 to 6.8 million metric tons in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. That remaining 6.8 million tons (ie. the two-unit JK Spruce coal plant south of town) emits roughly the same amount of climate pollution as the city’s entire transportation sector).

During this time, pollution from gas-fired power plants, however, rose from 1.8 million metric tons per year to 2.9 million metric tons of CO2e, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. (Carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e, represents the standard unit for measuring a facility’s carbon footprint.)

Over the last decade, climate pollution has doubled at the Southside refinery. The facility with reliable flares burning alongside (and spills often trickling into) the San Antonio River—originally known as the AGE Refinery, then NuStar, then Calumet, and now simply The San Antonio Refinery (LLC, of course)—shot from roughly 40,000 tons CO2e to 80,000 tons CO2e between 2011 and 2019. On the Northside, Capitol Cement has danced around 450,000 tons CO2e for nearly a decade without much change and Alamo Cement has been tracking virtually unchanged year by year at roughly 800,000 tons CO2e.

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It’s hard to make the full accounting of our greenhouse contributions because the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is still not factoring in our utility’s full contribution. As chronicled here for years and presented as a recent City meeting, CPS Energy emissions are not included in the inventory if those emissions are generated to sell electricity or gas outside City limits. The Office of Sustainiability argues that this practice is in keeping with international standards of record-keeping. As Deceleration has maintained since we surveyed the reporting landscape in 2018, the various accounting models actually repeatedly urge inclusion as full of an accounting as possible, as failing to do so “provides a much less complete story of how the community contributes to climate change, as many community activities … contribute to emissions from trans-boundary sources,” according to guidance from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (PDF).

While the broader San Antonio community has struggled to reduce climate pollution, management at The San Antonio Refinery (formerly Calumet/NuStar/AGE) have overseen a doubling from roughly 40,000 metric tons per year in 2010 to 80,000 metric tons in 2019. See graphic.

2019’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory (below) shows there has been a 125-percent growth in gas use by local industry over the last three years, as well as 10 percent growth in the commercial sector and 16 percent in residential: all of which is provided by CPS Energy.

How much is all that gas feeding into the overheating of the Earth? By not considering the upstream processes that bring gas into our homes and power plants–the fracking, flaring, compression, pipelines, LNG terminals, and leaks, leaks, and more methane leaks–our current accounting is vastly inadequate.

When properly accounted for, the true impact of our growing reliance on gas will almost certainly soar exponentially. As we wrote during the development of San Antonio’s climate plan:

“To comply with what has become standard reporting procedure for other other cities, this potent gas is being calculated as 28 times as powerful as CO2 instead of 84 times as potent, the difference between methane’s heat-trapping power when recorded over 100 years versus 20 years.”

A Global Perspective

Obviously, all of this needs to happen much, much faster. For a fun/depressing global perspective of where we’re at, we offer this interactive graphic from the World Resources Institute.

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The EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) began capturing data in 2010 and covers all industrial facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year.


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