On September 22, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued final regulations imposing mandatory greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reporting obligations.  The regulations generally apply to facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of GHGs per year.  However, sources in some categories, including electricity generators already subject to the acid rain program, must report regardless of the volume of their GHG emissions.  According to EPA estimates, the approximately 10,000 facilities subject to the new reporting regulations represent 85 percent of U.S. GHG emissions.

For those facilities subject to the reporting rule, emissions data collection must begin by January 1, 2010, and annual emissions from the 2010 calendar year must be reported by March 31, 2011.  For most large facilities, the reported data must include specific amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated GHGs, as well as aggregate GHG emissions.  Approximately 29 specific categories of GHG sources are specifically covered in the rule.  These include facilities with large stationary fuel burning sources, some mobile source manufacturers, oil refineries, pulp and paper manufacturing operations, and producers of aluminum, cement, iron, steel, glass, and chemicals.  Some indirect sources of GHG emissions are also covered, such as producers, importers, and exporters of petroleum products, natural gas, and industrial GHGs.  EPA has not yet made determinations as to 12 categories of sources, including coal suppliers and underground coal mines, and therefore they are not currently covered by the reporting rule.  EPA is expected to address whether and how to require reporting for these sources at some point in the future.

Although the proposed rule included a provision that would require a covered facility to continue to report regardless of fluctuations in its GHG emissions rate, the final rule provides a mechanism by which covered facilities can cease reporting as a result of GHG emission reduction efforts that successfully bring GHG emissions below the regulatory threshold for a number of consecutive years.

Because EPA’s final rule does not preempt states from imposing similar reporting obligations, additional GHG reporting may be required at the state level.  Mandatory GHG reporting programs are in effect or under development in at least 17 states.

EPA’s final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register soon, but a prepublication version, as well as additional guidance documents, tools, and webinars are available at www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgrulemaking.html.