US orders greenhouse gas reporting beginning Jan 2011

13 May 2010 19:17  [Source: ICIS news]

US to order GHG reportingWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Domestic refineries, major chemical plants and other factories will have to begin reporting their emissions of greenhouse gases in January 2011, US environmental authorities said on Thursday, marking the first federal regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that it had decided to require greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting by any facility that produces at least 75,000 tonnes per year of any of six pollutants.

This part of the reporting rule would begin on 1 January 2011, applying only to facilities that already were required to obtain permits for previously-regulated pollutants under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

In addition, beginning 1 July 2011, any new facility that would emit at least 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, and any plant that undergoes modifications resulting in emissions of 75,000 tonnes would be required to report, EPA said.

New facilities and modified operations meeting those threshold levels also would be required to demonstrate the use of best available control technologies (BACT) during construction or modification work to minimise GHG emissions.

Plants in the first category - existing facilities emitting at least 75,000 tonnes of GHG annually - would not be required to make any emissions control changes, according to EPA, but must report their greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA said it estimated that about 15,550 existing facilities - electric utilities, refineries, cement plants and other major production facilities - would be subject to the reporting rule that takes effect 1 January.

The requirement for new facilities and those undergoing major modifications would trigger reporting and best-practices emissions reductions by some 1,600 sites annually, the agency said.

EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy told a press conference that the agency’s limited focus on major plants and factories - known as the “tailoring rule” - was meant to avoid burdening as many as 6m facilities, farms, commercial businesses, hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and other sites that otherwise might be covered by EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases.

In a so-called "endangerment finding", the agency announced in December last year its intent to begin regulating US emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, citing the 2007 US Supreme Court ruling that said EPA has authority under that law to control US output of carbon dioxide and other gases suspected of causing global warming.

However, the Clean Air Act reporting threshold for pollutants is as little as 100 to 250 tonnes annually, and the EPA conceded that strict application of the law would have the “absurd result” of requiring millions of sites - schools, hospitals, farms, restaurants, etc. - to begin reporting and compliance.

McCarthy said EPA set the tailoring rule threshold at 75,000 tonnes for existing facilities because the agency believed it was a reasonable standard that would capture as much as 70% of the greenhouse gases emitted nationwide.

She said EPA was committed to additional greenhouse gases rulemaking for stationary facilities emitting less than 75,000 tonnes annually, but that no regulatory action for lower thresholds was likely before a comprehensive agency study of lower-level emissions sources would be completed in 2015.

She also said that the agency was confident that its tailoring rule was legal and would withstand court challenges.

Many in US industry have argued that the agency could not unilaterally amend the Clean Air Act to change the reporting and regulatory threshold for pollutants from 250 tonnes to 75,000 tonnes or any other level. To do so, some argue, amounted to an unconstitutional change of law laid down by Congress.

The EPA's endangerment finding was already the target of several petitions and lawsuits by industry and state governments seeking to overturn that initial ruling. In addition, there are at least seven bills pending in Congress aimed at barring EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

Complete information on the EPA’s tailoring rule can be found at a special agency Web site.

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