Massachusetts Finalizes Global Warming Solutions Act Reporting Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday published a final amendment to the first set of Global Warming Solutions Act regulations, 310 CMR 7.71.  These regulations set a baseline for Massachusetts’ 1990 emissions and create a reporting system that will track emissions going forward, providing a framework for economy-wide reductions of 10% to 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.  The regulations are the first phase of implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, passed last August, which, at the time, called for the largest cuts in greenhouse gas reductions seen in the nation.

In short, the reporting regulations require any facility that emitted more than 5,000 short tons of CO2 equivalents from stationary sources (whether from fossil fuel combustion or biofuels), and any facility that is required to have an air permit under Title V of the Clean Air Act to report annually its greenhouse gas emissions.  The regulations begin with reporting 2009 emissions of CO2 from the combustion of fuels, and ramp up in 2010 to require reporting of emissions for all six greenhouse gasses (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, per fluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride), whether or not they were produced by the combustion of fuels. Most reporting entities will also have to report emissions from vehicles (both off-road and on) that are owned or leased by the company and used in support of a facility.  As DEP provided in its response to comments, this could include cars given to executives for commuting.  

The final regulations make substantial changes from the emergency regulations, issued in December, 2008.   Among them, reporters must certify their emissions and have independent third-party verification of emissions every three years.  Also notable is the provision that requires every retail seller of electricity in Massachusetts to report the megawatt hours it sold the previous year and the greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with that power.  To calculate the emissions, DEP will create four emissions factors every year — one based on fossil fuel-powered generators in Massachusetts, one based on biofuel-powered generators in Massachusetts, and two that are based on New England-wide emissions.

Now that the 1990 baseline has been officially set at 94 million metric tons, DEP must next establish a firm target for reductions of between 10% and 25% below that baseline to be reached by 2020, and issue an economy-wide plan to achieve that target by January 2011.   DEP estimates that 300 facilities in Massachusetts will report their emissions under 310 CMR 7.71.  It will be interesting to see the percentage of the reduction the Commonwealth will call upon those 300 entities to achieve.  If the Commonwealth looks solely to those entities to achieve the reductions, then there will surely be complaints about both fairness and efficiency.  If the Commonwealth looks beyond the 300, then there will be questions as to how compliance will ultimately be monitored. 

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