• Congress Quietly Mandates Greenhouse Gas ("GHG") Emissions Reporting

Without fanfare or notice, the Congress enacted legislation (as part of the omnibus budget bill) which requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publish a draft rule setting forth its program to report GHG emissions by September 2008 and a final rule by June 2009. Some concern has been raised that this reporting requirement is "putting the cart before the horse" because there is no existing regulatory scheme adopted for controlling GHG.

  • Will The Mandatory Reporting Rule Apply To Your Business?

The answer to this question at this point is: maybe. The authorizing legislation says only that the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions "above appropriate thresholds" (not yet defined) applies to "all sectors of the economy of the United States." HR 2764 (Public Law 110-161).

  • GHG Reporting -- Voluntary Efforts Are Already Leading The Way

Many industries in the United States already voluntarily[1] report, on a periodic basis, the amount of greenhouse gases that their operations emit to or remove from the atmosphere. The issue with these well intentioned efforts is that there are a number of methods in use to both calculate and report GHG emissions and reductions, which lead to information bases that are not always compatible, complete or scientifically accurate.

North American efforts to achieve verifiable and compatible GHG reporting protocols is being led by The Climate Registry.[2] U.S. EPA is also fostering and recognizing voluntary corporate climate strategies through its CLIMATE LEADERS partnership program. Numerous businesses in the manufacturing, health services, pharmaceutical, utility, computer, transportation, chemical, food processing and other sectors have committed to voluntarily reduce their GHG emissions over the next five to 10 years.[3]

  • What Are Greenhouse Gases?

Simply put, "greenhouse" gases get their name from the phenomenon we are all familiar with in gardening, i.e., an enclosed glass greenhouse or "hothouse" for growing tender plants keeps the heat generated by the sun on a cold day inside the building to keep the plants "warm" and able to grow. In the world of climate change, a greenhouse gas is described as:

[a]ny gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).[4]

Some GHGs are naturally occurring, while others are a product of man-made activities. For example, increases of CO2 in the atmosphere (over naturally occurring emissions) have been attributed in large part to fossil fuel combustion from the industrial, transportation, residential and commercial sectors. Methane is an even more powerful "trap" for heat than CO2. It is generated from sources such as solid waste landfills, coal mining and manure management.[5]

Future Environmental Alerts will report on US EPA's progress in drafting and promulgating the GHG reporting rule. Keep up to date on all aspects of alternative energy technologies and climate change issues through Baker & Daniels Energy and Climate Change webpage.