The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency`s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program;
A Tool For Regulating Greenhouse Gases

INTRODUCTION

This is the first in a series of articles, that will examine point source greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in the United States (US), as well as the development of Renewable Energy to mitigate these emissions. This article looks at the history of regulating point source GHG, in the US, from Direct Emitters such as power utilities, industry and farms. In the past few years the US has made significant progress towards this goal, by having the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) develop the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) [1] , and propose the Clean Power Plan (CPP) [2]. The GHGRP, which began in 2010, collects GHG emissions from Direct Emitters, and for the first time provides a comprehensive data set of GHG facility level measurements, for all major emitters, in the United States. The EPA is proposing to use this data too set GHG intensity rates (GHG/MWh), for electric power plants in each state, through the CPP. Each State will be required to meet these rates by 2030, and show significant progress in achieving this goal by 2020.


HISTORY

Attempts to regulate GHG in the US have been problematic. Since 1990, the EPA has produced an annual report [3] on GHG Emissions and sinks. This report uses national energy data, national agricultural activities, and other national statistics to provide a comprehensive accounting of total greenhouse gas emissions, from all man-made sources in the US. In 1992, the United States joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) [4], and in 1997 it signed the Kyoto Protocol, but it has never been ratified by Congress [5]. With no legal binding to this treaty, concerned parties, in the US, initiated a long legal effort to require the EPA to regulate GHG through the Clean Air Act [6]. This effort culminated in 2007 with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that stated GHG air pollutants could be covered by the Clean Air Act, and in short required the EPA to make a decision on this matter [7].

Between 2007 and 2010, Congress began taking a larger role, in this effort, by first passing legislation (FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act.), which required the EPA to start a GHG reporting program, for all sectors of the US economy [8]. This is the program, that now provides the data for this article. The US House of Representatives went a step further, in 2010, by passing Waxman-Markey bill which was an attempt to create a national level cap-and-trade system for GHG [9], similar to what already exist for Acid Rain [10]. The cap-and-trade program for Acid Rain has been extremely successful, but unfortunately the US Senate was not able to pass parallel legislation, to the Waxman-Markey bill, and thus the overall effort failed [11].

In 2009, the EPA began the process of issuing a series of rules requiring the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases by large emitters [8]. This was in response to Congress's legislation, the year before, mentioned above. The EPA eventually settled on facilities which are emitting greater than 25,000 tons/year (in CO2-equivalent terms) of GHG, as the definition for large emitters.

Meanwhile, in December 2009 the EPA finally acted upon the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, by issuing its "Endangerment Finding" [12], which found that current and projected levels of six GHG's threaten the health and human welfare of current and future generations. The finding led directly to the "Tailpipe Rule", in which the EPA set GHG standards for new cars and light trucks. The rule also began the process of regulating GHG through the Clean Air Act (CAA), because the EPA asserted that regulation of GHG from motor vehicle's automatically triggered certain permitting requirements for stationary sources. This is a logical assertion since both are anthropogenic sources of GHG emissions.

The permitting process begins with a New Source Review (NSR), in which the EPA on a case-by-case bases examines Direct Emitters to see if they are using the best available control technology to limit the emissions of GHG. The "Prevention of Significant Deterioration" (PSD) provision, which is part of the CAA, requires all facilities emitting more than 250 tons/year of a pollutant, to go through this process. In the case of GHG, especially CO2, this would result in a huge number of facilities being permitted. Because of this, the EPA developed a Tailoring Rule [13], to the the PSD, which only requires facilities with at least 100,000 tons/year of CO2-equivalent emissions to be permitted. This would result in facilities that are responsible for 86% of GHG emissions, from stationary sources, being permitted under the CAA.

The Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. (CRR), a large consortium of businesses that own the bulk of stationary sources, challenged [14] (Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA) the EPA's Endangerment Finding and related rulings. In 2012 United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, upheld the Endangerment Finding and the Tailpipe Rule, while the Tailoring Rule was dismissed on technical grounds [15]. In reviewing the lower courts ruling, the Supreme Court only agreed to a case on the Tailoring Rule. They were specifically interested in looking at whether the EPA over stepped its authority, by saying the Tailpipe Rule justified the regulator of stationary sources. Because of the Supreme Courts limiting this case to the Tailoring Rule, the Endangerment Finding and Tailpipe Rule are now settled law.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, combined the Tailoring Rule, from Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, with another suite Texas v. EPA into a single suit, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA [16], which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for on February 24, 2014 [17] . In the second suite Texas and two industry groups (the Utility Air Regulatory Group and the SIP/FIP advocacy group) were claiming the EPA overstepped its authority in permitting of GHG. Part of the NSR process requires states to change their air quality state implementation plans to include GHG. Texas refused to participate in this process, and in consequence filed a suite against the EPA. On June 23, 2014, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA's Tailoring Rule and its new effort in permitting stationary source of GHG. However, in a separate part of the decision, all seven justices ruled the EPA could require facilities to limit greenhouse gas emissions if they already qualified for the permit program because of emissions of conventional air pollutants [18].

Regional efforts to mitigate GHG began in 2001, with The New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP) Climate Change Action Plan 2001 [19] . Shortly after that North Eastern State's, including New York, began discussions to develop a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) [20], which evolved into a cap-and-trade program by 2009 [21]. A similar effort on the West Cost [22] has occurred, and at various times included most Western US State's and Canadian Provence's, but has never achieved the level of agreements as RGGI. However, the state of California has been the most aggressive state or provincial government, in North America, in initiating programs that mitigate GHG emissions. It has developed its own cap-and-trade program [23] , as well as an emissions control law, for automobiles, that began the process of pressuring the EPA to regulate GHG emissions from automobiles.


CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS

Even though the U.S. Congress never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. has maintained its involvement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Recently, the Obama administration has made significant progress in pushing the U.S. towards developing meaningful GHG emission standards. In June 2013, Obama issued a comprehensive Climate Action Plan [24] , in fulfillment of a pledge he made in 2009, to reduce America's GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels. A year later the EPA issued a broad reaching Clean Power Plan [25], in response to the Presidents plan. The CPP is focused on Power Plants, and if successful it will cut GHG emission by 30%, in that sector by 2030, relative to the base year of 2005.

The CPP sets a goal, of GHG intensity rates (GHG/MWh), for each State which are to be achieved by 2030, with significant progress towards the reduction by 2020. The EPA established the goals based on measurements, from each state, of potential improvements in generating plant efficiency, possibility of using natural gas plants more, potential use of renewable energy, and possible demand-side energy efficiency improvements. The goal will not limit the amount of electricity produced, but focuses on how efficiently it is produced and used, in relation to the amount of GHG emitted in generating the electricity. Each State will be required to develop a plan on how to achieve the reductions, but they will have flexibility in how they meet the goal. The EPA will provide guidelines to help States develop the plan, based on the CAA, Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER), which are similar to the measurements used in creating the goal. A more thorough analysis of the CPP will be done in the next paper.

The United States emitted approximately 6,220 (million) Mil MtCO2eq of GHG in 1990 [fig. 1]. In signing Kyoto Protocol, in 1997, the US unofficially committed (US Senate never ratified Kyoto Protocol) it self to a target of reducing greenhouse gasses by 7% below 1990 levels, by the end 2012. In 2012 the US GHG emissions were 6,488 Mil MtCO2eq, just 4.5 % above 1990 emission levels, down from a maximum of 7,288 Mil MtCO2eq in 2007 [fig. 1]. If you include reduction of GHG emissions due to improved Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) methods it was even closer. US GHG emissions, including reductions due to LULUCF, were 5,402 Mil MtCO2eq in 1990 [fig. 2], while in 2012 they were 5,546 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 2], a difference of only 2.6 %. What is most amazing about this, is that this mitigation was accomplished without the US federal government making a positive contribution to the effort. In fact, as discussed above, the US government spent most of this period trying to prevent state governments from enacting policies that would lead to reductions in GHG.

Fig. 1, Total Sources, by Gas, excluding Sinks

Fig. 2, Total Sources, by Process, excluding Sinks

One of the strongest arguments against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, was the possible negative effects it could have on the US economy. The Bush Administration claimed signing the Kyoto Protocol would cost the US economy $400 Bil and 4.9 Mil jobs [26] . The fear was that efforts to mitigate GHG emissions would lead to higher energy cost, and as a results companies would move jobs over seas to countries that were not part of the Kyoto Protocol. In the year 2000, through a bipartisan effort, the US established permanent normal trade relations [27] with China. Ironically the opening up of trade with China seems to have had many of the negative effects, decline in manufacturing jobs [28] and higher energy cost [29] , that experts used against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. This was very unfortunate, because we did not have the benefit's of improved energy efficiency that ratification of Kyoto Protocol would have brought. When the price of oil per barrel passed $100, for the first time on Jan. 2, 2008, Americans felt the direct impact from this rapid rise in the cost of energy, instead of having a dampening effect of greater energy efficiency.

The decline in manufacturing effect on GHG emissions is evident when comparing Industrial Process emissions, from the late 1990's and early 2000's, where the emissions between 2001 and 2007 [fig. 3] where much lower. During this same period GHG emissions from Energy [fig. 4], including transportation, where increasing or staying level. However, this trend began to revers in 2008, with higher petroleum prices, and then dramatically changed in 2009 with the collapse of the US economy, in the Great Recession. Since then, GHG emissions, from Industrial Processes, have rebounded, but emissions from Energy have continued to stay relatively low. Hopefully, this indicates greater energy efficiency, in this sector.

Fig 3, Industrial Processes

Fig. 4, Energy Processes

The EPA's GHG Reporting program began collecting data in 2010, but facilities are still being added as of 2012, which is the latest data. This makes it difficult to compare data between years, since the emission totals are effected by the increased number of facilities reporting, as the program matures. Many facilities, such as power plants, were submitting GHG data, to the EPA, before 2010 as part of other programs. One source of this data is the Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) [30], at the EPA, which contains environmental data on electric power generated in the US. It includes data sources other than the EPA. The data used for the graphs, in this article, are from the annual summary Excel files, acquired from the EPA's Greenhouse Gas website [31].

A single reporting facility can have multiple processing, each of which can emit more than one type of GHG. This can complicate categorizing facilities based on their processes and GHG emissions. A more detailed description of the data and how values may vary, is provided in a separate article [32]. The current article reference data values used on the EPA's GHG Reporting web site [33] . These values will not be exactly the same as the ones shown in this article's graphs. The graphs are meant to provide users a broad analytic capability, enabling user to explore the data in ways that hopefully will provide them different perspectives on GHG emissions.
In 2010 over 6,000 facilities reported GHG emissions. The total emissions from Direct Emitters that year was equivalent to over 3.2 (billion) Bil MtCO2eq [fig. 5]. Power plants were by far the largest emitters, emitting more than 2.3 Bil MtCO2eq of GHG [fig. 6], or around 74% of total emissions. By 2013 the total number of facilities reporting had increased to 7,868, with total emissions of 3.17 Bil MtCO2eq [fig. 7], Power plants, which had GHG emissions of 2.1 Bil 2eq, contributing only 67% of emissions [fig. 8]. The difference in total GHG emissions, from Direct Emitters, between 2010 and 2013 was approximately -21 Mil MtCO2eq. However, there was a decrease of approximately 227 Mil MtCO2eq, between 2010 and 2013 GHG emissions from Power Plants. Comparing total GHG emissions between 2010 and 2013 is difficult, because there was an increase in the types of facilities report as the GHG Reporting Program official started in 2011, for instance Petroleum and Natural Gas. However, comparisons of Power Plant GHG emissions between those years is more valid, since the EPA was collecting GHG emissions from that sector prior to establishing the GHG Reporting Program.
In 2013, emissions, from Direct Emitters, of CO2 were over 2.89 Bil MtCO2eq, while emissions of CH4 and N2O were 224 and 36 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 9], respectively. Electricity Generation accounted for 2.1 Bil MtCO2eq, or 73% of CO2 emission [fig. 10]. The The next highest CO2 emitters were Petroleum Refineries with emissions of 177.5 Mil MtCO2eq (6%), and Iron & Steel Production with 84 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 10] (3%). The only other case were a single industry dominates the emissions of a GHG, are Municipal Landfills, with Methane (CH4) emissions of 92 Mil MtCO2eq, or 41% [fig. 10].

Fig. 9, 2013 Primary Gas Emissions, from Direct Emitters of GHG

Fig. 10, 2013 Primary Source Emissions, from Direct Emitters of GHG

There is a general relationship between GHG emissions from States, and their population. States with larger population generally have higher GHG emissions, than State with smaller populations. Of course this is obvious, so one must always look at per person GHG emissions, when comparing GHG emissions between states, or nations.

In 2013 Texas, with a population of 26,448,193, had the highest GHG emissions, from Direct Emitters, with 409.11 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 11]. This is despite it not having the largest population. California, with a population of 38,332,521, had GHG emissions of 112.47 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 11]. Both states have a wide variety of emitters, including high GHG emitting industries such as Petroleum Refineries, where Texas and California had GHG emissions of 65.21 [fig. 12] and 30.63 [fig. 13] Mil MtCO2eq, respectively. However, in the case of both States the largest source of GHG emissions by far are from fossil fuel electric power generation, where Texas has GHG emissions of 233.87 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 12], while California has only 43.17 Mil MtCO2eq [fig. 13]. This shows the success of California's long term commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency. In fact it ranks eighth out of all states in total GHG emissions, from Direct Emitters. The States that are ranked before California all tend to have relatively large populations, and a wide variety of GHG emitting industries.

Fig. 11, 2013 GHG Emissions, by State, from Direct Emitters

Fig. 12, 2013 GHG Emissions, by Source, for Texas from Direct Emitters

Fig. 13, 2013 GHG Emissions, by Source, for California from Direct Emitters

Two states that stand out, in this group, are Louisiana and Indiana, which have moderate populations of 4,625,470 and 6,570,902, but high GHG emissions of 136.53 Mil MtCO2eq and 157.43 Mil MtCO2eq, respectively [fig. 14]. Louisiana has a large petrochemical industry, so when you look at GHG emissions from just electric power plants it drops out of the top GHG emitting states. However, Indiana stays in the top ranking, where Texas still hold the number one position. This is because Indian, as well as its neighboring states in the Midwest, have large numbers of coal burning power plants [34] , along with being a major coal producing area. The effects of coal on GHG emissions are even more evident if you look at per person emissions, where large coal producing states of Wyoming (115.8 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop), North Dakota (51.15 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop) and West Virginia (47.32 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop) are the highest ranks [fig. 15]. This is even the case when you just look at per person power emissions, where they still hold the top ranks, showing that these states are also big electricity producers for other states. What really jumps out when looking at per person emissions is that large population stats, such as Texas, (15.47 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop) have relatively low per person emissions [fig. 16]. The lowest per person emitters are states such as California (2.93 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop) and New York (2.18 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop), which have been active in pushing for energy efficiency and developing renewable energy, a well as states, such as Idaho (2.62 Mil MtCO2eq/Pop), that have abundant hydroelectric energy [fig. 16].

Fig. 14, 2013 GHG Emissions, by State, from Direct Emitters

Fig. 15, 2013 GHG Per capita Emissions, by State, from Direct Emitters

Fig. 16, 2013 GHG Per capita Emissions, by State, from Direct Emitters

CONCLUSIONS

Even though there has been significant progress in regulating GHG emissions in the US, there is still great uncertainty about how successful the current regulations will be, and weather they will lead to additional attempts to curtail GHG emissions. However, it is certain that there will be continued pressure to proceed along this path. Most GHG emitters in the electric power industry all ready support regulating GHG emission, so now the question is more about how to proceed. The next article, in this series, will take a closer look at the CPP, examining specific State cases, describing how the EPA derived the GHG intensity rates, and possible scenarios the States could use to achieve these rates.

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Close
[1]
“Basic Information,” Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHG) Reporting Program. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 31-Jul-2014 [Online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/climate/ghgreporting/basic-info/index.html. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[2]
“Carbon Pollution Standards.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19-Sep-2014 [Online]. Available: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[3]
“U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report Archive,” Climate Change. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 23-Feb-2014 [Online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport/archive.html. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[4]
“United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” United Nations, 2014 [Online]. Available: http://unfccc.int/2860.php. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[5]
S. Peter, Ed., “Kyoto Protocol and the United States.” The Encyclopedia of Earth, 25-Dec-2006 [Online]. Available: http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/154065/. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[6]
“Background and History of EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Under the Clean Air Act & National Association of Clean Air Agencies’ Comments on EPA GHG Regulatory and Policy Proposals,” National Association of Clean Air Agencies, Aug. 2013 [Online]. Available: http://4cleanair.org/Documents/Background_and_History_%20EPA_Regulation_GHGs-Aug2013-post.pdf. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[7]
L. Greenhouse, “Justices Say E.P.A. Has Power to Act on Harmful Gases,” U.S. Washington. New York Times, 03-Apr-2007 [Online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/washington/03scotus.html?pagewanted=all. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[8]
D. Delaney, “Mandatory Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Rule Requirements,” Associates Environmental [Online]. Available: http://www.associatesenvironmental.com/Greenhouse_Gas_EPA_web.pdf. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[9]
K. Shippard, “Everything you always wanted to know about the Waxman-Markey energy/climate bill — in bullet points,” JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM. Grist, 04-Jun-2009 [Online]. Available: http://grist.org/article/2009-06-03-waxman-markey-bill-breakdown/. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[10]
“Acid Rain Program.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 09-Sep-2014 [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_Rain_Program. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[11]
K. Sheppard, “Was Waxman-Markey A Waste of Energy?,” Politics. Mother Jones, 09-Mar-2010 [Online]. Available: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/waxman-markey-senate-climate-kerry-graham-lieberman. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[12]
“Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.” United States Environmental Protection Agency [Online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[13]
J. Mangino, “Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Jun-2010 [Online]. Available: http://www.epa.gov/apti/video/TailoringRule/tailoring.pdf. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
Close
[14]
“Clean Air Act Cases.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions [Online]. Available: http://www.c2es.org/federal/courts/clean-air-act-cases. [Accessed: 11-Oct-2014]
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CARBON DIOXIDE EQUIVALENT

This article uses the units of Metric tons (Mt) of Carbon Diocise equivalent (CO2eq), or MtCO2eq. The EPA uses CO2eq as the units for GHG data. Each greenhouse gas has a different potential to trap heat in Earth's atmosphere. For example methane (CH4) has 25 times as much impact on global warming (over 100 years) as one metric ton (Mt) of CO2 emissions. Therefore, one metric ton of methane has a CO2eq of 25 Mt. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the gasses that are included in GHG reporting are:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Greenhouse GasAR4 GWP-100yrSAR GWP-100yr
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)11
Methane (CH4)2521
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)298310
Hydrofluorocarbons HFCs124-14,800140-1,1700
Sulphur hexafluoride SF622,80023,900
Nitrogen trifluoride NF317,200
Perfluorinated compounds PFC's8,830-10,3007,000-8,700
Fluorinated ether's HFE's 59-14,900
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the GWP values above. Currently the AR4 values, which are from Fourth Assessment Report, are being used, while the Second Assessment Report (SAR) have been retired. Using GWP makes it easier to compare greenhouse gasses. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) has by far the lowest GWP, but still dwarfs all other greenhouse gasses in emissions, measured by CO2eq.