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EPA Plans U.S. Registry of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to establish a nationwide system for reporting greenhouse gas emissions, a program that could serve as the basis for a federal cap on the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming.

The registry plan, which was announced yesterday, would cover about 13,000 facilities that account for 85 to 90 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas output. It was drafted under the Bush administration but stalled after the Office of Management and Budget objected to it because the EPA based the rule on its powers under the Clean Air Act.

"Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement. "Through this new reporting, we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases. This is a critical step toward helping us better protect our health and environment -- all without placing an onerous burden on our nation's small businesses."

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both California Democrats, had inserted language in a 2007 spending bill instructing EPA to develop a national greenhouse gas reporting system.

If adopted by the end of the year, the rule could produce greenhouse gas statistics by the end of 2010. The EPA requirements would apply to large industrial sources that emit 25,000 metric tons or more a year, including oil and chemical refineries; cement, glass, pulp and paper plants; manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines; and confined animal-feeding operations. The 25,000-metric-ton threshold is about equal to the annual emissions of a little more than 4,500 passenger cars.

Most small businesses would fall below the threshold and would not be required to report, EPA officials said.

In addition to carbon dioxide, emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases would have to be reported.

Officials from several of the industries that would be subject to the new reporting rules reacted relatively mutedly, but some questioned whether the proposal was too sweeping. Scott Segal, who represents coal-fired utilities, noted that although most electric power plants have been reporting their greenhouse gas emissions "for decades," smaller emitters may now find themselves subject to the registry.

"If the rule is the first step in the direction of actual regulation, the inclusion of schools, hospitals and small businesses sets a dangerous precedent for an overbroad approach," Segal said.

Environmental groups and Democrats welcomed the plan, saying it would help guide implementation of any mandatory, national limit on greenhouse gases. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has co-sponsored separate legislation with Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) calling for a national greenhouse gas registry, called the proposal "a crucial building block to the policy changes we need to make."

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