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

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4. New Hampshire
Population: 1,324,575 (40th)
GDP: $59.4 Billion (41st)
Toxic Waste: 4,538 Tons (8th)
Carbon Footprint: 19 Million Metric Tons (6th)
Alternative Energy: 12.3% (11th)

New Hampshire has extremely low pollution.  The state has the fourth lowest level of harmful particle pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and ranks fifth best with regards to toxic exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model.  New Hampshire has the fourth lowest level of developmental toxins released, the fifth lowest level of releases of reproductive toxins and the fifth lowest level of cancer-causing chemicals released.

5. South Dakota
Population: 812,383 (46th)
GDP: $38.3 Billion (46th)
Toxic Waste: 1,214 Tons (2nd)
Carbon Footprint: 13.7 Million Metric Tons (3rd)
Alternative Energy: 44.3% (5th)

South Dakota has the fifth-lowest population in the country and, along with that, its pollution is relatively low. The home of Mount Rushmore has only had 14 EPA violations since 2000, far and away the fewest in the nation. It also generated roughly 1,200 tons of hazardous waste last year, which is the second-lowest amount in the country, behind only Hawaii. South Dakota only produced 13.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the third-lowest in the country. South Dakota is above average – but not stellar – in terms of public policy, but it does rank fourth in the state utility alternative energy savings with a target of 10% by 2015.

Click on thumbnail of graph to see full-size chart.

the Environmental Protection Agency's Database of State C02 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion in 2008 (2009)

6. Idaho
Population: 1,545,801 (39th)
GDP: $54 Billion (42nd)
Toxic Waste: 4,808 Tons (9th)
Carbon Footprint: 16.2 Million Metric Tons (4th)
Alternative Energy: 84.5% (1st)

Idaho generates the greatest relative amount of renewable energy in the country, with 84.5% of all energy coming from alternative sources.  “The Gem State” also ranks fifth for producing geothermal energy thanks to its unique terrain, and sixth for conventional hydroelectric power, thanks to the Snake River Plain and the state’s smaller rivers.  Furthermore, the state has the fourth lowest rate of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.  This is largely the result of the state’s extensive use of renewable energy.

7. Montana
Population: 974,989 (44th)
GDP: $35 Billion (48th)
Toxic Waste: 37,758 Tons (17th)
Carbon Footprint: 37.7 Million Metric Tons (9th)
Alternative Energy: 36.5% (6th)

Montana is unofficially nicknamed “Big Sky Country.”  It is understandable that residents would be proud of their air, as it is tied for the lowest rate of ozone particulates in the nation, according to the American Lung Association.  The state also ranks well in many other categories. It ranks seventh for total energy used, however this is largely the result of the state’s relatively low population density, the third lowest in the country.

8. Wyoming
Population: 544,270 (50th)
GDP: $37.5 Billion (47th)
Toxic Waste: 3,502 Tons (5th)
Carbon Footprint: 64.6 Million Metric Tons (18th)
Alternative Energy: 3.9% (32nd)

As might be expected of the least populous state in the Union, Wyoming has relatively low levels of pollution. The state has the best score for particle air pollution in the country and ranks fourth for toxic chemicals dumped into waterways. Despite its performance in pollution, the “Equality State” is actually below average in policy. It has no long-term green utility goal and received the third-worst score on ACEEE’s energy efficiency scorecard.