By Laura Hart

The EPA has proposed a rule that would require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large sources in the United States.  The proposed rule was signed by the EPA Administrator on March 10, 2009 and published in the Federal Register on April 10, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 16,448).  As proposed, the rule will require reporting of stationary source GHG emissions for the 2010 calendar year by March 31, 2011.  According to the EPA, the proposed rule is intended to “collect accurate and comprehensive emissions data to inform future policy decisions.”

The reporting requirements apply to suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial GHG manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities with GHG emissions of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or more per year. Based on EPA’s estimations, the threshold emission level would be equal to the annual GHG emissions from approximately 4,500 passenger vehicles. According to the EPA, “the vast majority of small businesses would not be required to report their emissions because their emissions fall well below the threshold.” But around 13,000 facilities, accounting for about 85 to 90 percent of GHG emissions in the United States, would be covered under the proposed rule according to EPA.

GHG compounds covered by the proposed rule include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and other fluorinated gases, including nitrogen trifluoride and hydrofluorinated ethers. Certain listed direct-emission sources must comply with the reporting requirements and include the following sectors: adipic acid production; aluminum production; ammonia manufacturing, cement production, HCFC-22 production; certain specified HCFC-23 destruction processes; lime manufacturing; nitric acid production; petrochemical production; petroleum refineries; phosphoric acid production; silicon carbide production; soda ash production; titanium dioxide production; electric power systems that exceed certain nameplate capacities; electricity-generating facilities that exceed certain emission levels; electronics manufacturing facilities that exceed certain production levels; landfills that generate methane in amounts equal to or greater than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year certain manure management systems; and certain underground coal mines. The EPA found that nearly all of the above facilities emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and that only a few facilities emit marginally below this level. Suppliers of coal, petroleum products and natural gas are also covered.

The only agricultural source of GHG emissions covered by the proposed rule is manure management systems that have emissions equal to or greater than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Enteric fermentation (emissions of methane from the digestive system of cattle and other ruminant livestock), rice cultivation, field burning of agricultural residues, composting, and agricultural soils will not be subject to the reporting requirements of the rule.

There is no requirement in the proposed rule for mandatory third-party verification for the emissions reports. EPA estimates that compliance with the reporting requirements will cost the private sector $160 million in the first year and $127 million in following years. Public hearings were held in Virginia and California in April 2009. Written comments must be received today (June 9, 2009). The text of the proposed rule and additional information can be found here.