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July 06, 2010
New EPA Reporting Rules Aim to Track Methane Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

Agency's emissions reporting requirements are extended to include underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems, industrial waste landfills, and magnesium production facilities.

It's been more than a year now since the US House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill. Since then, members of the Senate have introduced progressively weaker versions of a climate bill, yet remain stalled in bringing legislation to a vote.

The latest Senate proposal that seems to be gaining some traction would establish emissions caps for the utilities industry sector only, to be followed a couple of years later by economy-wide mandatory targets. The utilities sector accounts for about 40% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US. No date has been set in the Senate for the introduction of such a bill.

Responding to inaction in the Senate, the Obama administration has always made it clear that it would turn to regulatory sources, if need be, to address climate change effectively. In a September statement announcing a rule requiring suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial GHGs, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions, to submit annual reports, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, "We are not going to continue with business as usual while we wait for Congress to act. We have the tools and the technologies to move forward today, and we are using them."

Last week, the EPA took another step in the enforcement of emissions reduction, by issuing reporting requirements for underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems, industrial waste landfills, and magnesium production facilities. According to the Agency, "Methane is the primary GHG emitted from coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems and industrial landfills and is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere."

Magnesium production facilities emit sulfur hexafluoride, which, the Agency stated, "Has an even greater warming potential than methane, and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years."

In the rule announced last week, the EPA decided not to include ethanol production, food processing, and suppliers of coal, although such facilities would be required to report if they meet the reporting threshold of 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year.

The emissions sources identified in the new rule will begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011, with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012.


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