EPA Issues Its Final Set of Mandatory GHG Reporting Rules

When we blogged about the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program regulations last fall, we noted that the EPA had excluded from the final regulations emission source categories such as wastewater treatment plants and underground coal mines that were initially included in the draft rules.  No longer. Yesterday, EPA finalized regulations requiring an estimated 680 facilities in the four sectors of underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems, industrial waste landfills and magnesium production facilities to begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011, and submit their first annual report in March 2012. Despite being few in number, these facilities, which primarily emit methane, are responsible for about 1% of national greenhouse gas emissions.  As in the existing reporting rules, 40 CFR Part 98, these businesses are required to report their emissions to EPA if they emit 25,000 metric tons CO2 equivalents or more per year.  

The final rule also clarifies EPA’s decisions on the remaining categories: EPA will exclude ethanol production and food processing from distinct subparts requiring reporting, as well as suppliers of coal (at least for now).  However, these types of facilities are still required to report emissions under other subparts of the rule, if they meet the reporting threshold of 25,000 metric tons CO2e per year. In addition, now that EPA has made final decisions on "all outstanding source categories and subparts" from last year’s draft rule, additional sectors can only be added through new rulemaking.

EPA also released proposed rules reflecting what data submitted by facilities under the greenhouse gas reporting program will be released to the public and what will be withheld as confidential business information. EPA hopes to have these rules in place before the 10,000 facilities that produce about 85% of the nation’s emissions submit their first reports in March 2011. 

As you may recall, the greenhouse gas reporting rules require both direct emitters and suppliers of fuels and industrial gases to report.   For the “direct emitters,” EPA proposes to release information such as the facility name and physical address, emissions, methodology and data used to calculate the emissions, and test and calibration methods, but withhold as confidential business information data on production, throughput, or raw materials that are not inputs to the emissions equations. As the emissions reported by the suppliers of fuels and industrial gases are not emissions from their own facilities, but potential emissions from the eventual use of their products, the individual companies’ reports are less important than the overall figures.  As such, EPA proposes a balancing approach – making sector-by-sector determinations and releasing data about emissions only when it would not cause substantial harm to the businesses’ competitive position. (Specifics on how data will be treated are available here.)   Comments are due 60 days after the proposed rules are published in the federal register.

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