EPA decision lays groundwork for carbon trading

The U.S. EPA said this week it unveiled a proposed rule requiring industries to report greenhouse gas emissions. Power plants already track such data, so it’s no big deal adding some more companies to the big government database, right? Think again.
Getting a baseline reading on greenhouse gas emissions from facilities is a key step for launching a CO2 trading system — which continues to be a priority for the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress.
“This is the foundation for any serious program to curb global warming pollution,” David Doniger, policy director of the climate center for the Natural Resources Defense Council told Bloomberg News. “You have to know where it’s coming from and in what amounts.”
Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ (CERA) head of Climate Change and Clean Energy Research Robert LaCount calls the move “far-reaching.”

“On one hand the rule greatly simplifies the challenges companies previously faced in reporting GHG emissions. The rule draws upon a long and complex list of reporting protocols to establish a federal standard that will now apply across all of a company’s facilities regardless of their location,” added LaCount. “On the other hand, the rule shifts the reporting paradigm from mostly voluntary programs to a mandatory system and does so at breakneck speed.”

What’s the hurry, you say? Surely it will take a while to get such a difficult piece of legislation like a CO2 trading law debated and passed.
Maybe, but it looks like the Obama administration “… is fast-tracking its response to the Supreme Court’s 2007 climate decision with plans to issue a mid-April finding that global warming threatens both public health and welfare, according to an internal U.S. EPA document (pdf) obtained by Greenwire.”
In the meantime, the proposed reporting rule would affect approximately 13,000 facilities nationwide, including refineries, car makers, coal mines and even “large manure ponds at farms” according to the Associated Press. These facilities account for about 85 to 90 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA said.
The EPA said most small businesses would fall outside the reporting rules since it aims at facilities with direct emissions equivalent to 25,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent per year or more.
How much will it cost? About $160 million in the first year and $127 million annually in subsequent years.
When would it go into effect? The first annual reports would be submitted to EPA in 2011 for the 2010 calendar year, although vehicle and engine makers would begin reporting with model year 2011.
How can you share your thoughts on the plan? The EPA will take public comment for 60 days and hold two public hearings on the plan before settling on a final rule.