EPA Requires Companies to Report Greenhouse Gas Emissions
WASHINGTON, DC, September 22, 2009 (ENS) - On January 1, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will, for the first time, require large emitters of heat-trapping emissions to begin collecting greenhouse gas data under a new reporting system. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are produced by burning fossil fuels and through industrial and biological processes.

This final rule, signed today by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, will cover approximately 85 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities.

"This is a major step forward in our effort to address the greenhouse gases polluting our skies," said Jackson. "For the first time, we begin collecting data from the largest facilities in this country, ones that account for approximately 85 percent of the total U.S. emissions."

Santee Cooper's Cross power station in South Carolina is the largest coal-fired plant in the Carolinas. (Photo courtesy Santee Cooper)

This comprehensive, nationwide emissions data will help in the fight against climate change, Jackson said.

The rule requires reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from large sources and suppliers in the United States, and is intended to collect accurate and timely emissions data to inform future policy decisions.

"The American public, and industry itself, will finally gain critically important knowledge and with this information we can determine how best to reduce those emissions," Jackson said.

EPA's new reporting system will provide a better understanding of where greenhouse gases are coming from and will guide development of the best possible policies and programs to reduce emissions.

Greenhouse gases covered by the rule are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and other fluorinated gases including nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFE).

Environmentalists were pleased with the new reporting requirement.

"The public has both a need and a right to know about the country's biggest emitters," said Mark MacLeod, director of special projects at Environmental Defense Fund. "The transparency provided today will inform smart policy that targets the biggest sources of heat-trapping emissions."

"This rule would not apply to churches and schools, and would not establish a 'cow tax' as some have falsely claimed," said EDF in a statement. Cattle emit methane, one of the greenhouse gases covered by the new EPA rule.

The greenhouse gas data reported to the agency will allow businesses to track their own emissions, compare them to similar facilities, and provide assistance in identifying cost effective ways to reduce emissions in the future, said Jackson.

Fossil fuel and industrial greenhouse gas suppliers, motor vehicle and engine manufacturers, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 equivalent per year will be required to report greenhouse gas emissions data to EPA annually.

This threshold is equivalent to about the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 4,600 passenger vehicles, or from the annual energy use of about 2,200 homes.

National Association of Manufacturers Vice President for Energy and Resources Policy Keith McCoy said that while manufacturers support the creation of an economy-wide greenhouse gas registry as part of a comprehensive federal climate policy, the EPA missed an opportunity to create a national registry that would provide the flexibility needed to reduce paperwork and lower costs for the nation's industrial base.

"The EPA's decision to impose requirements on facilities emitting 25,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide and other GHGs will regulate more than 13,000 facilities," said McCoy.

He explained that if the federal agency has adopted the NAMs recommendation to establish the threshold at 100,000 tons per year, federal regulators would have captured about 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions while exempting more than 6,000 facilities from mandatory reporting.

McCoy said, "the EPA's decision not to preempt existing state programs will duplicate paperwork and increase costs for many manufacturers."

The first annual reports for the largest emitting facilities, covering calendar year 2010, will be submitted to EPA in 2011. Vehicle and engine manufacturers outside of the light-duty sector will begin phasing in greenhouse gas reporting with model year 2011. Some source categories included in the proposed rule are still under review.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.