Climate Crisis

EPA: Rhode Island Hospital Late in Disclosing 2021 Emissions


PROVIDENCE — One of Rhode Island’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases failed to disclose its 2021 emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the federal agency.

Rhode Island Hospital was flagged in August for failing to report its emissions without a valid reason, according to facility-level data from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. An EPA spokesperson said the agency had no further information to offer but confirmed the Eddy Street hospital had yet to report its GHG emissions for 2021.

Data from 2020 shows the hospital emitted 53,595 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 27 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent of methane, and 36 metric tons equivalent of nitrous oxide, as a result of combusting distillate fuel oil No. 2, natural gas, and residual fuel oil No. 6 on-site.

The facility’s total emissions make it the ninth-largest emitter of climate emissions in Rhode Island; its total emissions are the equivalent of 11,600 cars driving on the road for a full year.

In an emailed statement to ecoRI News, Rhode Island Hospital said it submitted its GHG data in August. “It is currently being reviewed by the EPA,” spokesperson Kelly Brennan wrote. “The hospital continues to work on decarbonizing and reducing its energy use overall in collaboration with local energy suppliers.”

The facility has exceeded 50,000 metric tons of emissions every year since 2015.

Noncompliance with Clean Air Act regulations can be costly for facilities. The statute — written in the 1990s — allows the EPA administrator to levy a maximum fine of $25,000 a day per violation. Adjusted for inflation, the EPA is allowed to seek a maximum penalty of $51,796 a day for administrative actions and $109,024 a day for civil judicial actions.

Resident, commercial, and industrial building emissions produce a significant chunk of the state’s total GHG output. According to the latest GHG Inventory from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, emissions from heating buildings and industrial processes account for 37.5% of all GHG emitted in the state, putting it only second to transportation emissions.

Facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of C02 equivalent every year have been required since 2010 to report their emissions annually to the EPA; Rhode Island hosts 13 such facilities as of 2021.

Last year those 13 facilities emitted a reported total of 3,774,990 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — that is well over a third of all emissions reported by DEM in the 2019 GHG inventory. While the number is staggering, Rhode Island is still beating the national average. The EPA estimates large facilities, such as Rhode Island Hospital, that emit more than 25,000 of climate emissions annually account for half of all emissions in the United States.

The bulk of these emissions are from power plants. Of the 13 facilities in Rhode Island required to report, six are power plants and contribute 3.4 million metric tons of emissions. Two more, listed as petroleum and natural gas systems, contribute another 202,000 metric tons.

State law doesn’t require these facilities to report to DEM annually; major emitters and air polluters are only required to list sources of air pollution and the pollutants released every three years. According to DEM, Rhode Island Hospital submitted its required Annual Emissions Inventory to the Office of Air Resources for 2021.

Reducing emissions is the name of the game in the fight against climate change. The planet is on track to keep global warming at or slightly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial eras, but only if countries such as the United States meet the national targets they pledged by 2030.

Rhode Island lawmakers took a significant step in 2021, when the General Assembly passed and the governor signed the Act on Climate law. The legislation mandates the state reaches net-zero emissions by 2050, and provides benchmark goals it must reach every decade. If the state fails to meet any of the goals set out in the legislation, it would open itself to citizen lawsuits and other legal challenges.

The state got some good news in December when state environmental officials released the GHG inventory for 2019. According to emissions data crunched by DEM, the state released 10.04 million net emissions, 19.6% lower than the 1990 baseline emission levels as set out by the Act on Climate.

But Rhode Island still has an uphill battle to meet its goals. Some environmental groups have criticized the final update to the state’s emission reduction plan, arguing the plan doesn’t do enough to reduce emissions to reach climate goals.

“The policies outlined in the plan will only reduce Rhode Island’s emissions by 38% by 2030, leaving emissions 37% higher than the legal limit for that year,” wrote Amanda Barker, a policy associate with Green Energy Consumers Alliance, in a blog post. “The plan is simply not compliant with the Act on Climate.”


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