The agency is targeting methane, which is “more than 20 times as potent as CO2” at warming the atmosphere.

With a nod toward the oil and natural gas sector, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed to include additional emissions sources in its first-ever national mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting system.

In October 2009 the EPA finalized the first-ever mandatory greenhouse gas reporting requirement, which mandates that 31 industry sectors, covering 85% of total U.S. GHG emissions, to track and report their emissions (see Daily GPI, Oct. 1, 2009).

Tuesday’s proposal would allow the EPA to collect emissions data from the oil and natural gas sector, industries that emit fluorinated gases, and facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide (CO2) underground for the purposes of geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the move. “The public has been left in the dark about methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said Pamela Campos, an EDF attorney. “EPA’s leadership in requiring disclosure of this potent greenhouse gas will mean more rigorous information and smarter policies to address pollution.”

EDF said the oil and gas industry is the second largest contributor to U.S. methane emissions, accounting for 23% of methane emissions in the United States in 2007. During that year methane emissions from oil and gas systems in the United States equaled the GHG emissions of approximately 24 coal plants, the fund said.

The latest move comes as U.S. industry continues to voice its concern. Earlier this month 20 governors and nearly 100 trade organizations, including several energy groups, wrote letters to Senate and House leaders expressing their concerns about the EPA’s attempt to use its Clean Air Act (CAA) authority to regulate GHG emissions that are contributing to global warming (see Daily GPI, March 12).

The governors, led by Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, called on Congress to “stop harmful EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions that could damage…vital interests,” but they did not indicate what route they wanted Congress to take to stop the agency. The industry associations, however, expressed their support for a “disapproval resolution” offered by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in late January, as opposed to legislation that has been offered in both the Senate and House to temporarily suspend EPA activity (see Daily GPI, Jan. 22).

On Tuesday the government agency noted that methane is the primary GHG emitted from oil and natural gas systems and is more than 20 times as potent as CO2 at warming the atmosphere, while fluorinated gases are even stronger and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Data collected from facilities that inject CO2 underground would enable EPA to track the amount of CO2 that is injected and in some cases require a monitoring strategy for detecting potential emissions to the atmosphere. The EPA said data from these sectors will provide a better understanding of where GHGs are coming from and will help EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce emissions.

“Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “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. Once we know where we must act, American innovators and entrepreneurs can develop new technologies to protect our atmosphere and fight climate change.”

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

Under these proposals, newly covered sources would begin collecting emissions data on Jan. 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 in Arlington, VA, and on April 20 in Washington, DC.

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