U.S. EPA today finalized a nationwide system to require large sources of greenhouse gases to report their emissions.
The new rule will require about 10,000 facilities that emit about 85 percent of the nation's greenhouse gases to begin to collect emissions data under a new reporting system, EPA said. Suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial greenhouse gases, motor vehicle and engine manufacturers and other facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide equivalent will be subject to the new requirements.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called the new rule a major step forward in efforts to address the heat-trapping gases.
"For the first time, we begin collecting data from the largest facilities in this country, ones that account for approximately 85 percent of the total U.S. emissions," Jackson said in a statement. "The American public, and industry itself, will finally gain critically important knowledge and with this information we can determine how best to reduce those emissions."
Most small businesses would fall below the 25,000-metric-ton threshold, EPA said, and would not be required to report their emissions. The only agricultural sources that are required to report their emissions are manure management systems at livestock operations where greenhouse gas emissions meet or exceed the 25,000-ton limit. About 100 livestock operations meet that threshold, EPA said.
Facilities are required to begin collecting emissions data on Jan. 1, 2010, and the first emissions reports will be due in March 2011. EPA will verify the data and will not require third-party verification. Prior to EPA verification, the facilities will be required to self-certify their data.
Many industry groups expressed concerns that EPA's draft rule, released in March, would impose significant costs and regulatory burdens. The American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were among the groups that criticized the agency's draft regulations. Representatives from those groups were not immediately available to comment on the final rule.
Environmentalists applauded the new regulation, which is widely viewed as a major step toward informing future policy decisions on carbon dioxide regulations.
"The public has both a need and a right to know about the country's biggest emitters," said Mark MacLeod, director of special projects at Environmental Defense Fund. "The transparency provided today will inform smart policy that targets the biggest sources of heat-trapping emissions."
Said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club, "I think it shows they're continuing to move along, and they've got a bunch of rules that they've got to get done."
Bookbinder said that the suite of greenhouse gas regulations pending at EPA could give the Obama administration some leverage in upcoming climate change negotiations.
President Obama touted the new reporting rule today at a U.N. climate change summit in New York. "I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history," he said, citing the reporting rule as one of the administration's achievements on that front.