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EPA Establishes Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting

The EPA is creating a nationwide database of greenhouse gas emissions, an important first step on the path to reducing U.S. emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a proposed "Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule" for sixty days of public comment, with a final rule expected in late 2009. The proposal would cover 85 to 90 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. This process is the result of legislation passed in December, 2007 that directed the EPA to design a national, mandatory GHG emissions registry. EPA’s work on a national registry lagged under the previous administration, but has received fast-track priority under incoming Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The plan would require 13,000 facilities to report their emissions. Facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually would be covered, and small businesses will be exempt. Reporting for sectors such as the utilities, oil and gas producers, and chemical refineries would start in 2011, while automobile manufacturers will start up on their 2011 models.

A Welcome Milestone

A national greenhouse gas registry is a major development in U.S. climate change policy, because it is the cornerstone of cap-and-trade, or indeed, any policy to measure and reduce emissions. Before the government can implement emission reduction policies, they first need to have solid and reliable emissions data. Otherwise, there would be no way to ensure that emissions sources—such as power plants and factories—are achieving reductions.

The EPA previously had no comprehensive way to track emissions data at the individual facility or business level. An EPA national registry will provide transparency and support a variety of climate change policies and programs at the national, regional, state, and local levels.

Unlike voluntary programs like the Climate Registry and Climate Leaders, which allow companies to demonstrate progress in reducing emissions across their entire business, the new federal reporting program will track the emissions of individual facilities, rather than companies as a whole. Also, reporting from those facilities will be mandatory, not voluntary.

A comprehensive GHG registry isn’t just good for the sake of policy, it’s good for business as well. Experience with voluntary programs shows that as companies measure their emissions, they typically gain a better understanding of where they are coming from, for instance, their supply chain, transportation, or in their electricity, heating, or cooling use. That knowledge helps identify cost-effective, even “no regrets” strategies for reducing their carbon emissions and improving their bottom line by saving energy.

A Solid Resource: WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol

WRI experts participated in the EPA’s stakeholder process and have submitted comments throughout the rulemaking process. During the comment period, WRI will review the proposed rule and continuing to be engaged in the public comment period before the regulation is finalized later this year.

WRI brings more than a decade of experience to the discussion. For ten years, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative has been developing standards for greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting and promoting their broad use worldwide. Hundreds of companies in the US and around the world are reporting their GHG emissions on a voluntary basis following the GHG Protocol.

Last year, WRI released "Designing a U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Registry," a policy brief that laid out a blueprint for lawmakers drawing up registries to follow. The brief also identified what features a successful registry must include.

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