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EPA Rule Requires Oil, Gas to Keep Track of GHGs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Tuesday finalized regulations that require the mandatory reporting of heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by major polluters beginning in the first quarter of 2011.

The nearly 600-page rule, which was published in the Federal Register, will require the country's largest emitters to begin collecting GHG emission data on Jan. 1, 2010 for submission in early 2011. The program will cover approximately 85% of the nation's GHG emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities, including power generation plants, oil and natural gas production facilities, refineries, steel manufacturers, paper mills, chemical manufacturers, gas distribution systems and natural gas liquid extraction facilities, according to the EPA (see NGI, March 16).

The rule does not require control of GHG emissions; rather it requires only that sources exceeding certain emission threshold levels monitor and annually report emissions. The EPA has established a threshold of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

Only the most dangerous pollutants would be covered, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and other fluorinated gases, the EPA said.

"This is a major step forward in our effort to address the greenhouse gases polluting our skies," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "For the first time, we begin collecting data from the largest facilities in this country, ones that account for approximately 85% of the total U.S. emissions."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) "supports EPA's step of establishing a national reporting system for greenhouse gas emissions. The nation needs a reporting system to gain a better understanding of the GHGs emitted by sources within the United States as a basis for discussion, development and implementation of a national climate policy.

"Based on our initial analysis [of the rule], we believe the final rule provides some additional flexibility, as compared with the proposed rule, that will make it easier for chemistry companies to thoroughly and accurately report GHG emissions," said ACC President Cal Dooley.

"We support EPA's addition of a mechanism for facilities and suppliers to cease annual reporting by reducing their GHG emissions. We also [favor] a new provision to allow use of best available monitoring methods in lieu of the required methods for some or all of reporting year 2010, depending on facility. Additionally, EPA made some valuable changes to the monitoring equipment provisions by adding monitoring options, changing monitoring locations or reducing the need for installing new monitors," he noted.

Another positive change was the final rule's reduction in the required sampling and analysis for fuel combustion and some other source categories, as well as EPA's exclusion of research and development activities from reporting, Dooley said.

Since 1995 fossil fuel-fired power plants exceeding 25 MW in size have been subject to mandatory reporting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. This has provided an "important database of emissions" for the nation's single large source sector, the Environmental Defense Fund said.

And 41 states currently are participating in The Climate Registry, which has more than 300 participating business members that have voluntarily committed to measure, verify and publicly report their GHG emissions.

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