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

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9. Nevada
Population: 2,643,085 (35th)
GDP: $126.5 Billion (31st)
Toxic Waste: 11,143 Tons (10th)
Carbon Footprint: 41.6 Million Metric Tons (12th)
Alternative Energy: 9.4% (16th)

Nevada has the lowest level of water pollution in the country because the generally arid state has very little freshwater to dump toxins into. The “Silver State” scores well in alternative energy production, with the second-highest production of solar photovoltaic and geothermal energy. Despite its low pollution levels and alternative energy scores, the state is only above average in policy initiatives.

10. Iowa
Population: 3,007,856 (30th)
GDP: $142.2 Billion (30th)
Toxic Waste: 40,316 Tons (18th)
Carbon Footprint: 85.2 Million Metric Tons (25th)
Alternative Energy: 9.6% (15th)

Iowa rounds out the top ten states with the most environmentally friendly rankings.  The state’s high position is due in large part to its impressive usage of alternative forms of energy.  It ranks second in wind energy usage, with 7,331,391 megawatt hours produced last year, and third in total nonhyrdroelectric energy, with 7,506,649 megawatt hours.  Iowa also notably has the best energy saving target as assessed by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy by calling for investor-owned utilities to achieve 1.5% energy savings by 2010 and 0.85% natural gas savings by 2013.

Click on the Graph to see a full-size chart.

U.S. Energy Information Administration's Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary Statistics (2009)

11. North Dakota
Population: 646,844 (48th)
GDP: $31.8 Billion (49th)
Toxic Waste: 530,504 Tons (38th)
Carbon Footprint: 49.0 Million Metric Tons (15th)
Alternative Energy: 9.0% (17th)

North Dakota has the second smallest GDP in the country, but it produces the 13th most toxic waste annually (just behind New Jersey) at 530,000 tons. The state does a good job managing it.   North Dakota has the ninth-lowest volume of waste into state waterways and has had the fourth fewest EPA violations since 2000. The state also has the second best scores for particle air pollution and is tied for first in ozone pollution with Hawaii, Montana and Nebraska. Additionally, since much of the state’s geography consists of open plains, it is ideal for wind turbines and produces the 11th most wind energy annually.

12. Minnesota
Population: 5,266,214 (21st)
GDP: $260.6 Billion (17th)
Toxic Waste: 106,804 Tons (28th)
Carbon Footprint: 99.9 Million Metric Tons (28th)
Alternative Energy: 12.0% (12th)

Minnesota ranks third for percentage of energy resources used coming from nonhydroelectric renewable sources, mostly from wind energy. A main cause for Minnesota’s good standing is public policy.  The state ranks fifth for utility and public benefit programs and has the best energy saving target score as awarded by ACEEE, because of Governor Pawlenty’s Next Generation Energy Initiative, which required a 1.5% annual energy savings of both electric and natural gas sales by 2025.

13. Colorado
Population: 5,024,748 (22nd)
GDP: $252.6 Billion (19th)
Toxic Waste: 41,532 Tons (19th)
Carbon Footprint: 98.1 Million Metric Tons (27th)
Alternative Energy: 10.0% (14th)

Colorado benefits in ranking from above-average pollution scores, scoring sixth best for birth-defect inducing toxins and carcinogenic chemicals released into waterways. Colorado also ranks 12th in particle pollution. The “Centennial State” has very good policy scores, ranking seventh for energy saving targets, according to ACEEE’s assesment.  More than 6% of Colorado’s total energy output is from alternative resources, the eighth best rating in the country.