EPA issues proposed and final rulemakings impacting greenhouse gas reporting obligations
On June 27, 2011, EPA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that, if finalized, would amend certain provisions relating to the best available monitoring methods that are applicable to the petroleum and natural gas industry under 40 CFR Part 98, Subpart W. Initial GHG emission reports from this industry sector are due for submittal to EPA in March 2012. “Best available monitoring methods” authorize covered facilities to use emission calculations other than those required by the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule when reporting GHG emissions, for example when estimating emissions using factors such as raw material use. The Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule allows the use of best available monitoring methods for parameters that cannot reasonably be measured according to the monitoring and quality assurance quality control requirements of the various subparts of the rule and are, within each subpart, subject to deadlines, notice and other requirements.
In its rulemaking, EPA proposes to extend the deadline to request use of best available monitoring methods for 2011 and further, to extend the time period during which owners and operators of certain covered facilities may use best available monitoring methods during 2011 without submitting a request to EPA for approval. In addition, EPA proposes to expand the list of reporting entities that would not be required to submit a request to EPA to use best available monitoring methods for 2011. Finally, the proposal would extend the deadline by which owners and operators could request use of best available monitoring methods for years beyond 2011. EPA proposed the changes in response to concerns raised by the American Petroleum Institute.
In a similar Federal Register notice published June 22, 2011, EPA gave notice that, in response to concerns raised by the Semiconductor Industry Association, it is reconsidering certain provisions applicable to electronics manufacturing facilities under 40 CFR Part 98, Subpart I of the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule. Like the petroleum and natural gas sector, initial GHG emission reports from this industry sector are due for submittal to EPA in March 2012. As part of its reconsideration, EPA, by direct final rule, extended three deadlines in Subpart I relating to the use of best available monitoring methods from June 30, 2011 to September 30, 2011, including the time period during which owners and operators may use best available monitoring methods in 2011 without submitting a request for approval to EPA. In a related action also published June 22, EPA issued a proposed rule that would change the emissions monitoring and calculation provisions of this subpart of the rule. The changes would provide the largest electronics manufacturers (i.e., those that fabricate devices on wafers measuring 300 millimeters or less in diameter and that have an annual manufacturing capacity of greater than 10,500 square meters) more flexibility in how they report fluorinated GHG emissions.
Most recently, in the August 4, 2011 Federal Register, EPA proposed changes to the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule that purport to clarify and make other amendments to the general provisions at Subpart A as well as requirements applicable to the following six sectors: petroleum and natural gas systems (Subpart W); underground coal mines (Subpart FF); industrial wastewater (Subpart II); suppliers of industrial GHGs (Subpart OO); geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide (Subpart RR); and industrial landfills (Subpart TT). The proposed amendments would apply to data reported to EPA in 2012.
EPA reports that, for the most part, the amendments are not intended to change the overall requirements of the rule but instead to improve clarity and ensure consistency across the calculation, monitoring, and data reporting requirements. Of note however, EPA proposes to change the reporting threshold for underground coal mines (Subpart FF) such that only those that have ventilation emissions of 36,500,000 actual cubic feet of methane or more per year would be required to report. Under the current rule, all underground coal mines that are subject to quarterly or more frequent sampling of their ventilation systems by the Mine Safety and Health Administration are required to report (regardless of size). EPA reports that this change would eliminate reporting requirements for approximately 500 mines.
In the same rulemaking, EPA also proposes a one time, six month extension of the 2012 reporting deadline for facilities subject to GHG reporting requirements under one of the 12 subparts required to start collecting data in 2011 (Subparts I, L, T, W, DD, FF, II, QQ, RR, SS, TT and UU). The extension is intended to allow sufficient time for stakeholder testing of the online reporting tool for these new source categories.
To view a complete PDF of the Second Quarter 2011 issue of the Air Quality Letter, click HERE.