EPA to Establish Nationwide, Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting System by 2009
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to set up a mandatory program that will require U.S. companies to report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EPA directive was included in the massive $555-billion spending bill for fiscal year 2008 that President Bush signed into law Dec. 26.
Language in the omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764, Public Law No. 110-161) tells EPA to issue a proposed GHG reporting rule by September, and a final rule by June 2009. However, the one-paragraph directive is brief and vague and provides no details as to how EPA must structure the reporting program. Rather, the EPA Administrator is granted the discretion to determine the types of sources that will be covered by the program, thresholds of emissions above which reporting will be required, the frequency of reporting, and other important features of the program. The law appropriates to EPA $3.5 million for carrying out the rulemaking.
EPA officials currently are working on the new GHG reporting rule, but it is still unclear how expansive and inclusive the rulemaking will be and whether or not the construction industry will be affected. Currently, only coal-fired power plants are required to report their GHG emissions to the federal government. Some companies voluntarily report their GHG emissions through a number of different voluntary registries.
The enactment of the law also comes at a time when many states are adopting their own GHG emission reporting laws, which the new federal law does not expressly preempt. This potentially dual system of emissions reporting creates further challenges for EPA, and for companies trying to prepare for new reporting obligations.
Coordination with Other State GHG Reporting Schemes
A significant issue for EPA in designing the new reporting program will be the extent to which it tries to harmonize its program with reporting regimes being developed by states or by voluntary registration programs such as the Climate Registry. A number of states have already or are currently in the process of developing mandatory reporting schemes to support their GHG reduction efforts. As more states develop reporting programs, the differences in program design have the potential to become a serious challenge for businesses operating in multiple states.
To try to avoid regulatory inconsistency, an independent organization called the Climate Registry was formed last year and is supported by 39 states, as well as by several Canadian provinces and Mexican states. The Climate Registry aims to standardize GHG accounting and reporting rules across multiple jurisdictions and to provide businesses with a means of publicly recording their emissions in a single consistent and comparable report. The Climate Registry is currently in the process of developing general reporting protocols and is accepting public comment on its new Draft General Verification Protocol until March 14, 2008.
Information about the Climate Registry can be found at http://www.theclimateregistry.org/.
Whether EPA will use the reporting protocols being developed by the Climate Registry is unclear at this time. Also unclear at this time is the fate of the federal government’s existing voluntary GHG registry, known as the 1605(b) program within the Department of Energy.
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