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

Douglas A. McIntyre

30. Mississippi
Population: 2,951,996 (31st)
GDP: $95.9 Billion (35th)
Toxic Waste: 1.7 Million Tons (46th)
Carbon Footprint: 67.8 Million Metric Tons (19th)

Alternative Energy: 2.9% (Tied For 36th)

Mississippi has overall weak policy put in place with regards to the environment.  The state ranks 46th for utility and public benefit programs and has the second to worst overall score awarded by ACEEE for energy efficiency.  It is also has the worst environmental standards as tracked by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  Mississippi does, however, handle its dangerous waste well.  The state produced 1,702,446 tons of hazardous waste in one year, the fifth largest amount in the country. Since 2000, however, there have only been 103 violations in disposing of hazardous waste, the third lowest amount.

31. South Carolina
Population: 4,561,242 (24th)
GDP: $159.6 Billion (27th)
Toxic Waste: 102 Thousand Tons (27th)
Carbon Footprint: 89.3 Million Metric Tons (26th)
Alternative Energy: 2.9% (Tied For 36th)

South Carolina has high levels of pollution, low levels of alternative energy for its size and potential, and insufficient policies in place to change either. Despite its geographic location and relatively sunny weather, the state ranks second to last in incentives and programs supporting solar energy, behind only Alaska (which has a reasonable excuse). The state ranks in the bottom ten in carcinogenic, development-inhibiting, and reproductive toxins dumped into waterways. Only 1.9% of the state’s electricity production comes from non-hydroelectric alternative energy sources, and it has no production to speak of in wind, solar, or geothermal energy.

32. Florida
Population: 18,537,969 (4th)
GDP: $737 Billion (4th)
Toxic Waste: 168.9 Thousand Tons (30th)
Carbon Footprint: 256.2 Million Metric Tons (46th)
Alternative Energy: 2.1% (Tied for 43rd)

Florida is the second greatest user of energy in the country.  Only 2.1% of the energy produced in the state comes from renewable sources, however, placing Florida 43rd in this category.  Florida also ranks last for violations in disposing of hazardous materials, with 4,193 violations recorded since 2000.

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

U.S. Energy Information Administration's Energy Consumption Estimates by Source and End-Use Sector (2008)

33. North Carolina
Population: 9,380,884 (10th)
GDP: $398 Billion (10th)
Toxic Waste: 71.7 Thousand Tons (24th)
Carbon Footprint: 153.5 Million Metric Tons (38th)
Alternative Energy: 4% (31st)

Relative to South Carolina, North Carolina scores better in most policy rankings, including 10th in energy-saving targets and sixth in financial incentives. The state, however, performs worse than its southern neighbor in areas like water pollution. In the most recent recorded year, the Tar Heel State dumped roughly 170,000 pounds of carcinogenic chemicals into its waterways, 30,000 pounds more than any other state. North Carolina is also ranked 38th for their carbon footprint.

34. Michigan
Population: 9,969,727 (8th)
GDP: $368.4 Billion (12th)
Toxic Waste: 284.2 Thousand Tons (35th)
Carbon Footprint: 182.9 Million Metric Tons (40th)
Alternative Energy: 3.4% (35th)

Michigan has excellent energy-saving targets, ranked fourth in the nation by the ACEEE.  It also has the best rating given by the ACEEE for financial incentives for energy efficiency.  However, the state ranks 40th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 43rd for its air’s ozone level, and 46th for number of hazardous waste disposal violations since 2000.

35. Tennessee
Population: 6,296,254 (18th)
GDP: $244.5 Billion (20th)
Toxic Waste: 78.5 Thousand Tons (21st)
Carbon Footprint: 128.3 Million Metric Tons (35th)
Alternative Energy: 7.3% (20th)

At 10.7 million megawatt hours in a year, Tennessee generates the seventh largest amount of alternative energy. Most of this energy – about 9.5 million megawatt hours – comes from hydroelectric generation, which is controversial for its negative impact on ecosystems. Tennessee’s total non-hydroelectric output is 32nd in the country, despite being the 18th largest state. The state also ranks 41st in solar energy policy, 45th in ozone levels, and 47th in the dumping of carcinogenic toxins.