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March 16, 2009 1:45 AM, EDT

EPA Rule Would Track Emissions as First Step to Cap-and-Trade

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the March 16 print edition of Transport Topics.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week took the first step toward creating a national cap-and-trade system, proposing a new rule that would establish a federal system for reporting carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases produced by large stationary and mobile sources.

The new reporting requirements would apply to suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or more than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year. EPA said the large majority of small businesses would not be required to report their emissions.

Because many trucking fleets enrolled in EPA’s SmartWay program already voluntarily report some of their emissions data, the EPA said fleets would not be yet required to enter data into the proposed national emissions registry.

“In light of the existing data available to EPA, the agency is not

proposing mandatory reporting requirements for mobile source fleet operators but is requesting comments on the need for and substance of potential reporting requirements at this time,” EPA said in its announcement.

“Through this new reporting, we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases,” Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, said in a statement March 10. “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.”

An American Trucking Associations official said the group could not comment on how the proposed draft rule would affect carriers or manufacturers.

“Considering that these documents are over 1,400 pages and won’t be published in the Federal Register until later this month, we need time to read it before we can provide any comment,” said Glen Kedzie, ATA vice president and environmental counsel.

A spokesman for the Truck Manufacturers Association also declined to comment on the proposed rule.

EPA said in a document that manufacturers of heavy trucks have long-standing testing and certification requirements for criteria emissions and fuel economy and that the agency already has a structure for receiving emission data from manufacturers. Criteria emissions include the six most common air pollutants in the United States: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

The agency said carbon dioxide already is measured as a part of vehicle and engine certification and that the California Air Resources Board also requires all manufacturers to report CO2 measured during their certification emission tests to facilitate improvements in California’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

However, EPA said other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, methane and air-conditioning hy-drofluorocarbon emissions are rarely measured and reported.

In the new proposal, manufacturers would be required to report annually the greenhouse gas emission rates of new vehicles and engines at the same time and through the same process they currently follow for criteria pollutant emission certification and fuel economy reporting, EPA said. Greenhouse gas reporting requirements would begin to apply with the 2011 model year.

In 2007, Congress for the first time ordered a study of setting fuel-economy standards for heavy-duty trucks. That study, being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, is currently under way.

“President Obama, in his first budget proposal, has laid out a framework for an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to curb our nation’s emissions, designed to take effect in 2012,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee environment panel. “But before we can implement the president’s proposal or any other cap-and-trade system, we need accurate reporting data on all major facilities that emit greenhouse gas emissions — and that is exactly what this registry would provide.”

“A national greenhouse gas registry is a necessary first step and a crucial precursor to both a mandatory and market-based carbon cap-and-trade regulation of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).