On December 21, 2015, the EPA Administrator signed off on a fairly lengthy package of proposed changes to the GHG Reporting Rule, 40 CFR Part 98, and the proposal will be published soon in the Federal Register. There will be a 45 day public comment period that runs from the date of publication. Click on these links to access a pre-publication version of the proposal, and the EPA fact sheet briefly describing the proposal.

EPA has indicated that its proposed changes are intended to streamline implementation and reduce reporting burdens, and also to improve the quality of data gathering. Keep in mind that when EPA recently enacted changes to its audit policy to accomplish streamlining, the changes required issuance of a 126 page user manual, a video tutorial, and  a lengthy list of FAQs, all to explain how to comply with the new streamlined reporting process.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

The proposed changes apply to 30 separate subparts in the rule:

Click here to view table.

Implementation of these changes is intended to be staggered. As proposed:

  • Changes to subparts I (Electronics Manufacturing) and HH (Municipal Solid Waste Landfills), with related revisions to subpart A (General Provisions), would apply to the RY2016 reports, which must be submitted by March 31, 2017;
  • Most of the other changes would apply to the RY2017 reports the following year;
  • Changes to subparts V (Nitric Acid Production), Y (Petroleum Refineries), FF (Underground Coal Mines) and OO (Suppliers of Industrial Greenhouse Gases) would apply to RY2018 reports.

Some of the suggestions in the proposal are helpful, others are not as complete as they could be, and yet others are possibly troublesome. Many of the proposed changes are specific to the individual subparts covered by the rule and address issues like data collection, recordkeeping and methodology. As an example of a potentially troublesome change, EPA proposes in Subpart A to Increase the burden of reporting missing data in annual reports so that the self-reporting obligation will apply not just to parameters that are required to be reported in the annual report, but much more broadly to any parameter that you actually use to monitor or calculate emissions that must be reported.

Given the opportunities for streamlining that exist in the rule as currently written, those subject to the reporting provisions in the rule will want to carefully review the proposal for impacts on any subparts they report under, and may want to consider commenting on the proposal, either in direct response to specific changes proposed, or to provide additional streamlining suggestions.