Cheap Oil and Gas Spark Industrial Boom

U.S. oil and gas production has increased more than fifty percent in the last decade thanks to the hydro-fracturing of shale deposits that’s pushing output to record levels.  Unsurprisingly, this is driving investment in the industrial infrastructure needed to turn all that oil and gas into fuel, chemicals, and other high-value products. The Environmental Integrity Project has created a public database to track the environmental and human health impacts of nearly 250 of the largest projects to build or expand capacity at gas processors, liquefied natural gas terminals, refineries, petrochemical plants, and fertilizer manufacturers.

Monitoring the Industry’s Growth

Concentrated in corridors along the Gulf Coast and increasingly the Appalachian Ohio River Valley, these industrial hubs are major sources of greenhouse gases as well as emissions that contribute to local air pollution.  They may also increase the risk of dangerous explosions or toxic leaks from facilities that are poorly managed or overwhelmed by hurricanes, floods, or other natural disasters. EIP hopes the database can be used to help monitor the industry during this critical period of growth, which is happening especially rapidly under the anti-regulation, industry-friendly Trump Administration.

Our current database identifies 202 projects that have been issued draft or final major Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012 that authorize more than 216 million tons of  greenhouse gas emissions every year. That’s equivalent to the carbon output from 47 new baseload coal-fired power plants running around the clock.  Forty-six more have applied for permits to emit nearly 50 million more tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis, equivalent to the carbon output from ten additional coal-fired power plants.

Our database summarizes each project, tallies up the greenhouse gas and “criteria pollutant” emission increases from these construction permits and applications, and provides access to hundreds of electronic permit documents we’ve obtained from state and federal agencies.

Potential Emission Increases (tons per year) of CO2e and criteria air pollutants:

Status # CO2e NOx SO2 VOC CO PM2.5
Draft and Final Approvals Issued 202 216,309,295 39,709 5,409 26,763 78,602 9,231
Pending Applications 46 49,562,317 20,030 3,569 96,420 44,347 4,379
Total 248 265,871,612 59,739 8,977 123,183 122,949 13,610

Project locations are shown on the map below. (Zoom in and click on a facility marker to explore each project, its permitted emission increases, and permit documents. You can view the map legend and turn on demographic and political boundary layers by clicking on the “>>” button in the top left of the map.)

Map of New or Expanded Oil and Gas Industrial Infrastructure

Background and Methodology

The projects in question are designed to enable facilities to perform a wide range of operations, including: compressing or processing natural gas, natural gas liquids, and condensate; liquefying natural gas for export; converting liquids or natural gas into petrochemical feedstocks, fertilizer, herbicides, explosives, or plastic resins; or exporting or refining crude oil.

The facilities in the database are either brand new or are being expanded, and have obtained or are seeking major “New Source Review” permits under the Clean Air Act that limit greenhouse gas emissions.  Under federal law, these permitting requirements are triggered by any project likely to increase GHG emissions more than 75,000 tons per year while also significantly increasing emissions of certain “criteria” pollutants known to harm public health. We have included 28 projects that were issued or applied for GHG PSD permits that have been rescinded after a 2014 Supreme Court decision.

The criteria pollutants—which include particulate matter (including fine particles) nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)—are regulated pursuant to health-based air quality standards established under the Clean Air Act.  According to the National Institutes of Health, air pollution exposure is associated with a wide array of health effects, including “respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), and even death.”

The potential emission increases and point locations are from each facility’s Federal Clean Air Act New Source Review or Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit(s) or application(s), or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The database also includes estimates of demographic characteristics within 1 and 3 miles of each facility. Those were calculated from EPA’s EJSCREEN census block-level dataset and the American Community Survey.

Download Data (Excel) (CSV) (last updated 8/21/2019)

View Permit Documents

Suggested citation: “Environmental Integrity Project. (2019, August 21). Emission Increase Database. Retrieved from”

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Related EIP Reports and Press Releases:

31 New or Expanded Petrochemical Plants Approved in Hurricane Zone along TX and LA Gulf Coast

Greenhouse Gases from a Growing Petrochemical Industry, 2016

Blowback from the Shale Boom, 2014

Note: This dataset is routinely updated and will continue to expand. Please contact us if you would like us to include a project in your community or if you would like to report an error.