EPA Takes Another Step Toward Regulating Emissions

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 12:18 PM PDT

The Environmental Protection Agency took a significant—if wonky—step forward on addressing global warming on Tuesday, with the announcement that the agency has finalized rules on greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

The new rule will require all major polluters to begin collecting and reporting their greenhouse-gas emissions. The EPA already puts out an annual inventory of their emissions, but this takes reporting down to every individual source emitting 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 per year. Congress directed EPA to write the new rule in 2007, but the Bush administration never acted on the requirement. The registry will be a key element in regulating carbon dioxide.

The rule will cover approximately 10,000 sources, accounting for roughly 85 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. Electric utilities, oil and chemical refineries, major manufacturers, iron and steel producers, and concentrated animal feeding operations will need to start collecting data on January 1, 2010 and reporting that data by 2011. Heavy-duty vehicle and engine manufacturers will have a one-year delay on the new rule, with reporting set to begin in 2012.

Obama tipped his hand on the announcement of the new rule in his speech to the UN, noting the new rule as a sign of domestic progress. "For the first time ever, we'll begin tracking how much greenhouse gas pollution is being emitted throughout the country," said Obama.

"The American public, and industry itself, will finally gain critically important knowledge and with this information we can determine how best to reduce those emissions," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in a statement.

The rule could play a key role in guiding the number and distribution of carbon credits under a cap-and-trade system, should Congress enact a plan in the near future. Or, in the absence of a new law governing emissions, it signals that the EPA is moving forward on regulations with or without Congress.

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