EPA Proposes Required National Reporting of GHG Emissions
By Brittany Zwicker, AASHE Intern
On March 10, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release alerting the nation about a proposed rule that would require mandatory annual reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 equivalent per year. The proposed rule would affect about 13,000 facilities in the US that account for 85%-90% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal has drawn the attention of the higher education sector and sparked a number of listserv and blog discussions. The question is, how will this proposed rule affect colleges and universities?
According to Bill Irving, Chief of the Program Integration Branch of EPA's Climate Change Division, the proposed rule would affect only a small number of colleges and universities. The rule proposes the reporting of aggregated emissions and will primarily affect schools with coal-fired power plants on campus, which produce the most emissions, or large natural gas-fired or oil-fired plants. Purchased offsets that may bring an institution's emissions to below 25,000 megawatts will not exempt it from the rule. Authority for the reporting comes from the Clean Air Act.
The EPA's Frequently Asked Questions sheet for the proposed rule says reporting will be based on a "threshold for aggregate maximum rated heat input capacity for stationary fuel combustion units of 30 mmBtu/hr. If a facility does have an aggregate maximum rated heat input capacity of 30 mmBtu/hr or greater, then they may need to do further calculations to determine if they meet the threshold for reporting."
To help facilities prepare for reporting, the EPA has released a "Small Business" information sheet with answers to important questions such as, "If I'm required to report, will I have to include emissions from my school's vehicle fleet?" The response is no, fuel suppliers and vehicle manufacturers would report those emissions. As for potential conflict between the EPA's rule and similar state rules requiring GHG reporting, Irving says that the EPA will not pre-empt state programs and believes the two can co-exist.
It is anticipated that required reporting will begin with 2010 emissions data for institutions that exceed the reporting threshold. Irving says the only situation in which a tool such as Clean Air-Cool Planet's Campus Carbon Calculator may be used for reporting purposes is when both methodologies are identical. To verify the reports, the EPA will utilize a self-certification process consistent with other Clean Air Act programs, requiring a designated representative from each institution to self-certify their data. EPA proposes internal verification and periodic checks on data reported or potential site audits.
Once the rule is finalized, the EPA will begin intensive efforts to build training tools for reporters, including resources such as fact sheets, guidance documents, seminars, educational meetings, and reporting software. The reporting will likely be developed to utilize electronic reporting methods.
The final rule would be prepared following a 60 day public comment period, which will begin when the rule is published in the Federal Register (regulations.gov). Two public hearings will be held, one in Arlington, VA on April 6 and 7, 2009, and one in Sacramento, CA on April 16, 2009. Both of these events will be streamed online. The public hearings were published in the Federal Register on March 25, 2009. The proposed rule will be published separately although is likely to be unchanged: the public hearings notice states that "the signed notice of proposed rulemaking … is essentially the same as the proposal that will be published in the Federal Register." For updates on progress and publication of the proposed rule and further details, see http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgrulemaking.html.
As for potential future requirements, Irving says, "The data from this reporting rule will help guide future climate policy efforts by providing comprehensive and accurate information and help protect the environment and public health." To track the evolution of GHG policy, he suggests that institutions should follow debates in Congress as well as draft legislation.
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