EPA Would Expand Greenhouse Gas Reporting to More Industries

WASHINGTON, DC, March 24, 2010 (ENS) – Targeting the most potent and persistent greenhouse gases, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to include additional emissions sources in its first national mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system.

In October 2009, the agency finalized a rule that requires 31 industry sectors, covering 85 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, to track and report their emissions.

That rule requires suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of greenhouse gas emissions must submit annual reports to the EPA.

Now, in addition to those 31 industries, the agency is proposing to collect emissions data from the oil and natural gas sector, from industries that emit fluorinated gases, and from facilities that inject and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, underground for the purposes of geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery.

Natural gas processing facility in Four Corners, Texas (Photo by Roy Luck)

“Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

She says the data from these sectors will provide a better understanding of where greenhouse gases are coming from and will help the EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce emissions.

“It’s especially important to track potent gases like methane, which traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon and accelerates climate change,” Jackson said. “Once we know where we must act, American innovators and entrepreneurs can develop new technologies to protect our atmosphere and fight climate change.”

Emitted by the burning of coal, oil and gas as well as by other industrial processes, greenhouse gases form a heat-trapping blanket around the planet, raising the planetary temperature.

Records from land stations and ships indicate that the global mean surface temperature has warmed by about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.

After an extensive review of the scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, concluded in 2007 that warming of the climate system is now “unequivocal,” based on observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

Methane is the primary greenhouse gas emitted from oil and natural gas systems and is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere, while fluorinated gases are much stronger and can persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Semiconductor manufacturing is done in a clean room, but the process emits fluorinated gases. (Photo courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)

Fluorinated gases are hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride, emitted from a variety of industrial processes including aluminum production, semiconductor manufacturing, electric power transmission, magnesium production and processing, and the production of HCFC-22, a gas used in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Emissions of these fluorinated gases have more than tripled in the United States from 1990 to 2007, according to EPA figures.

They persist longer in the atmosphere are a far more potent than carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. Sulfur hexafluoride, SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas ever evaluated, with a global warming potential of 22,800 times that of CO2 when compared over a 100 year period.

Data collected from facilities that inject carbon dioxide underground would enable EPA to track the amount of CO2 that is injected and in some cases would require a monitoring strategy for detecting potential emissions to the atmosphere.

The data will also allow businesses to track their own emissions, compare them to similar facilities, and identify cost effective ways to reduce their emissions in the future, Jackson said.

The EPA is also proposing to require all facilities in the reporting system, including those proposed today, to provide information on their corporate ownership.

Under these proposals, newly covered sources would begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011 with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012.

These proposals will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold public hearings on these proposals on April 19, 2010 in Arlington, Virgina and April 20, 2010 in Washington, DC.

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