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Wyoming leads in CO2 per person; top coal mining state is a reluctant enforcer of emissions

In this Feb. 11, 2014 photo, steam rises from the stacks of Basin Electric's Laramie River Station coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, Wyo. The House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee advanced a joint resolution Monday, Feb. 24, that would call on Congress to require the Environmental Protection Agency to respect the state's primacy in setting guidelines to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. (AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Alan Rogers)

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In this Feb. 11, 2014 photo, steam rises from the stacks of Basin Electric's Laramie River Station coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, Wyo. The House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee advanced a joint resolution Monday, Feb. 24, that would call on Congress to require the Environmental Protection Agency to respect the state's primacy in setting guidelines to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. (AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Alan Rogers)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Turns out the worst state for carbon dioxide emissions per person isn't smoggy California or bustling New York, but a state famous for big, clear skies: Wyoming.

Regulating greenhouse gases is a touchy subject in the least-populated state.

Wyoming faces an outsized challenge since getting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval in December to regulate greenhouse gases. New federal figures show Wyoming in 2011 emitted more than 112 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person — more than six times the national average.

Wyoming also is the top coal-mining state. Burning coal to generate electricity produces large amounts of CO2. But state officials say EPA efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions are a "war on coal."

Burning coal — primarily to make electricity — accounts for almost 70 per cent of Wyoming's CO2 emissions, twice the U.S. average.

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