Gas ‘peakers’ emit more air pollution than baseload plants — GAO

By Brian Dabbs | 05/22/2024 06:49 AM EDT

Peaker plants also are more likely to be in historically disadvantaged communities, the agency said.

Exhaust emerges from the smokestack of a natural-gas fired power plant.

Emissions from a natural gas power plant are shown. Sean Gallup/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. natural gas plants that operate during peak demand periods release more air pollutants than average generators and are more likely to be located near poor and minority communities, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The plants, known as “peakers,” usually operate less than 15 percent of the year. The report says peakers emit approximately 1.6 times more sulfur dioxide, which causes a range of respiratory problems, than baseload power plants per unit of generated electricity. Baseload plants operate the majority of the time and run on coal, gas, diesel or nuclear fuel.

A community with a 71 percent minority population living under the federal poverty line is likely to be 9 percent closer to a peaker than the average community, the GAO analysis said.


Natural gas was used in most of the 999 peaker plants operating in 2021 analyzed by GAO.