Are you ready to report all of your greenhouse gas emissions to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”)? Get ready to do so! It is mandatory by June 2009 according to Public Law 101-161 just signed by President Bush.

Congress, without debate has created a new mandate in the form of a reporting program into an omnibus appropriations bill.

President Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 on December 26, 2007. It directs EPA to spend not less than $3.5 million to develop a rule “to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy of the United States.” The EPA is required to publish a draft rule by no later that 9 months after December 26, 2007 and a final rule not later than 18 months after the same date.

Unfortunately, there is little to no guidance, on important issues such as: 

  • What is a greenhouse gas? 
  • What is an emission? 
  • What is an appropriate threshold to do what? 
  • What form will mandatory reporting take? 
  • What does in all sectors of the economy of the United States mean? 
  • How will failure to report be enforced?

It is generally assumed that the term greenhouse gases includes, among others, carbon dioxide, methane gas, and hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”), a substitute for CFCs that are phased out under the Montreal Protocol for harming the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Therefore, EPA is left with the ability to find other substances as greenhouse gas:

HFCs are used as solvents, household and commercial refrigerants, automobile air conditioning, firefighting agents, propellants for aerosols and home air conditioning units, whether window or central.

All farms produce carbon dioxide and methane. In fact, it has been claimed that methane is emitted from manure, wastewater sludge, and municipal solid waste landfills. Cattle belch methane and it has been determined that 16% of the world’s annual methane emissions to the atmosphere come from the cattle. The livestock sector in general (primarily cattle, chickens, and pigs) produces, it is alleged, some 37% of all human-induced methane. And rice farming does the same.

Obviously this Act, if complied with, will probably have a greater impact on the American society than most environmental laws. Since all humans expel carbon dioxide in their breathing, will commercial building owners be required to monitor their air emissions? Will airlines have to monitor their flights? Will farmers be required to note how many cattle or other livestock they may have. And since some commercial dry cleaners have begun replacing the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene as a possible carcinogen with carbon dioxide, will dry cleaners be required to report?

These are just some simple questions that one should ask after reading the appropriations directive