The Environmental State of The Union: A Survey of Pollution, Energy Use and Policy in all 50 States

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46. Pennsylvania
Population: 12,604,767 (6th)
GDP: $554.3 Billion (6th)
Toxic Waste: 290 Thousand Tons (36th)
Carbon Footprint: 274 Million Metric Tons (48th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Unlike many of its northeastern neighbors, Pennsylvania ranks very poorly on our list.  This, of course, is due in large part to the state’s expansive and polluting industry.  The “Keystone State” ranks 48th in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 49th for particulates in the air, and 49th for toxic exposure.  The state’s pollution habits are, unfortunately, not very surprising, since it is well-known for its coal, steel, and natural gas industries.

47. West Virginia
Population: 1,819,777 (37th)
GDP: $63.3 Billion (39th)
Toxic Waste: 92 Thousand Tons (26th)
Carbon Footprint: 116 Million Metric Tons (32nd)
Alternative Energy: 1.8% (46th)

West Virginia stands out at the bottom of our list as having a surprisingly low level of energy consumption. Thirty-eight states use more energy each year than the “Mountain State,” including Iowa, which is in the top ten on our list. This fact makes West Virginia’s horrible performance much more impressive. Only twice does the state break the top 25 in any category, and it ranks in the bottom ten percent in many categories, including alternative energy, policy, air pollution, water pollution, and carbon footprint. The best thing state residents can lay claim to is generating three-quarters of a million megawatt hours of wind energy annually, the 19th best amount for this category.

48. Indiana
Population: 6,423,113 (16th)
GDP: $262.6 Billion (16th)
Toxic Waste: 778 Thousand Tons (41st)
Carbon Footprint: 230 Million Metric Tons (44th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied For Last)

Indiana’s main source of power production is coal.  In fact, Indiana is home to the country’s largest coal power plant, the Gibson Generating Station.  As a result, the state is tied with Ohio for having the lowest percent usage of renewable energy sources in the United States, with a mere 0.7%.  Additionally, the state has some issues with pollution.  It releases the greatest amount of toxic chemicals into waterways, releasing over 27 million pounds in one year.  The second greatest amount, from Virgina, was significantly less at just over 18 million pounds.

49. New Jersey
Population: 8,707,739 (11th)
GDP: $482.9 Billion (7th)
Toxic Waste: 555 Thousand Tons (39th)
Carbon Footprint: 134 Million Metric Tons (34th)
Alternative Energy: 1.5% (48th)

The only reason most would be surprised about seeing New Jersey here in our ranking is that it isn’t dead last. The Garden State is not known for being green, a reputation that is based in truth. The state ranks 45th in air particle pollution and 46th in ozone pollution. New Jersey actually scores quite well in energy conservation and alternative energy policy, however these policies haven’t translated into results. As a percent of energy generated that is alternative, the state ranks third-to-last.

50. Ohio
Population: 11,542,645 (7th)
GDP: $471.2 Billion (8th)
Toxic Waste: 1.3 Million Tons (45th)
Carbon Footprint: 267 Million Metric Tons (47th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied for Last)

Ohio ranks fifth in energy consumption, and very little of this demand is met by alternative energy. Only 0.7% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, the worst rate in the country. The majority of the state’s energy comes from coal. Along with this tendency comes a long and poor record of pollution.  The state ranks 47th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 46th for toxic exposure, 47th for developmental toxins released, and 47th for reproductive toxins released.  Additionally, the state ranks second worst, just behind Florida, for hazardous waste violations since 2000, as reported by the nonprofit group OMB Watch.  Ohio may not rank dead last in an extreme number of subcategories, however its overall extremely poor showing causes it to be ranked as the least environmentally friendly state on our list.

-Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, Douglas A. McIntyre, Ashley C. Allen