EPA building with Washington Monument in the background

EPA building with Washington Monument in the background

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first ever comprehensive system for reporting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In a press release issued yesterday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson states that with the new reporting measures proposed “we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases. This is a critical step toward helping us better protect our health and environment – all without placing an onerous burden on our nation’s small businesses.”

Much of the reporting requirements used in the development of the proposal are already underway in several states, regions and through various reporting programs. The EPA’s proposal applies reporting requirements to fossil fuel and industrial chemical suppliers, certain manufacturers, and large direct greenhouse gas emitters whose emissions are equal to or greater than 25,000 metric tons per year. Most small businesses fall below this threshold and would not be required to report their emissions under the proposed rule.

This means that, if the proposed rule is enacted, 13,000 facilities across the United States will be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Industries affected include manufacturers of oil, cement, chemicals, iron and steel, automobiles, and many others. The proposed rule covers about 85-90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originating in the United States.

The initial cost to the private sector to comply with reporting requirements is estimated at $160 million in its first year, with subsequent years dropping to $127 million annually. If on schedule, the proposed reporting is set to begin in 2011 after the monitoring of 2010 emissions. Vehicle and engine manufacturers will begin reporting for model year 2011.

The proposed rule comes under the heading of the Clean Air Act and is in accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 signed into law in December 2007. The proposal was originally expected to come out last September. While this measure is a first of its kind for the United States, greenhouse gas emissions reporting is already underway in other countries. In Australia, for example, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 was passed in September 2007 requiring mandatory reporting of corporate greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy production and consumption.

While delayed in its release, the timing of this announcement by the EPA might be significant in that it underscores the environmental consciousness of the new administration. Despite its expected debut during Bush’s term in office, the Obama administration has managed to finally kick emissions regulation into gear and put the United States on track for a greener future.

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