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

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36. Virginia
Population: 7,882,590 (12th)
GDP: $408.4 Billion (9th)
Toxic Waste: 51 Thousand Tons (21st)
Carbon Footprint: 127.9 Million Metric Tons (33rd)
Alternative Energy: 5.1% (27th)

Virginia has a poor record when it comes to pollution.  In 2007, the state released over 18 million pounds of toxic chemicals into its waterways, the second largest amount in the country that year.  It places within the top twenty for a number of policy-related categories, however.  Virginia ranks 17th for solar power policy and 18th with regards to ACEEE’s financial incentives score.

37. Delaware
Population: 885,122 (45th)
GDP: $60.5 Billion (40th)
Toxic Waste: 19.8 Thousand Tons (11th)
Carbon Footprint: 17.3 Million Metric Tons (5th)
Alternative Energy: 2.2% (Tied for 41st)

Many small states on our list suffer in the ranks because they produce little alternative energy compared to states that have the space and demand to do so. This disadvantage is usually balanced out by the fact that these states also generally have smaller industrial infrastructures, and so produce less pollution. Delaware, however, manages to have the worst of both worlds. The state is average at best for most types of pollution, except for featuring good toxic waste scores, yet it ranks 45th in ozone pollution. Delaware also produces the least alternative energy of any state, about 140,000 megawatt hours. The next-worst state, Nebraska, produced more than five times this.

38. Alabama
Population: 4,708,708 (23rd)
GDP: $169.8 Billion (25th)
Toxic Waste: 2 Million Tons (47th)
Carbon Footprint: 145 Million Metric Tons (37th)
Alternative Energy: 6.5% (21st)

Alabama’s greatest environmental attribute is its use of alternative energy sources. Although the state ranks 35th for total energy used, it ranks sixth for using the greatest amount of alternative energy.  However, the state produces a large amount of waste.  The state released the 95,038 pounds of developmental toxins in 2009, the greatest amount of all 50 states.  It also released the second greatest amount of cancer-causing chemicals.  The state also generated the fourth greatest amount of hazardous waste.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (2009)


39. Kansas
Population: 2,818,747 (33rd)
GDP: $124.9 Billion (32nd)
Toxic Waste: 222.8 Thousand Tons (31st)
Carbon Footprint: 78.4 Million Metric Tons (21st)
Alternative Energy: 3.8% (33rd)

Thanks to its open plains, Kansas has the tenth-highest wind generation. It also does relatively well in air quality, with the sixth-best particle pollution score. Otherwise, the “Sunflower State” does quite poorly. Due in part to runoff from airplane manufacturing plants and other major sources in the state’s industrial centers, Kansas is responsible for introducing the second-highest amount of developmental toxins into state waterways and, with 32,000 pounds, the most reproductive toxins. Kansas also has one of the worst RSEI toxicity exposure scores, ranking 48th in this category.

40. Kentucky
Population: 4,314,113 (26th)
GDP: $156.5 Billion (28th)
Toxic Waste: 132 Thousand Tons (29th)
Carbon Footprint: 156 Million Metric Tons (39th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Kentucky performs poorly in most categories on this list.  It ranks 43rd for releasing cancer-causing chemicals, 44th for releasing developmental toxins, and 41st for releasing reproductive toxins.  The state also ranks 39th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.