EPA proposes greenhouse gas registry – A first step for climate policy

On March 10 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will propose a new rule to require greenhouse gas emissions reporting from thousands of businesses nationwide – a prerequisite for any effective climate change program. A greenhouse gas registry is a database for collecting, verifying, and tracking emissions from specific industrial sources.

Late in 2007 Congress ordered the Bush EPA to create just such a greenhouse gas emissions reporting rule. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration missed its first deadline for publishing a draft of the rule and let the process languish. However, a good amount of work was done by EPA staff – work that is finally seeing the light of day.

According to the EPA's press release, the draft rule would require about 13,000 facilities to report greenhouse gas emissions.  The agency estimates the reporting will cover 85 to 90 percent of U.S. emissions.  The rule accomplishes this by requiring reports to include "upstream" sources such as fossil fuel suppliers, as well as motor vehicles and stationary sources such as cement plants and power plants. There will be a sixty-day comment period during which the agency will hold two public hearings on the draft rule.

The proposed threshold for reporting greenhouse gases is 25,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Because carbon is only one of at least six gases covered by the draft rule, and each gas has a different impact on global warming, the impacts are measured as CO2e.


he proposed rule does not require third-party certification of a company's emissions report, without which there will be less certainty and accountability. The draft rule does, however, require electronic reporting, and intends to use existing reporting programs where practicable and develop a new reporting system for all other cases.

A comprehensive emissions registry is crucial to ensuring efficiency and accountability in any forthcoming climate change legislation. We cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we do not know who is emitting and how much. Congress is now drafting greenhouse gas cap-and-trade legislation. For any such program to work well, data on the emissions of every covered facility are required so that the appropriate number of carbon "credits" are allocated. The data also help ensure emissions reductions are actually being made.

The European Union moved ahead with its cap-and-trade program before it had a decent accounting of per-facility emissions. The price of carbon crashed when it became clear that too many credits had been allocated, eliminating the incentive to cut emissions. The Europeans fixed the problem and are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The EPA’s new draft rule should help the U.S. avoid Europe’s mistake.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration's inaction has cost us vital time. The proposed registry would not begin collecting data until 2011 for emissions in 2010.

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