EPA wants facilities to report emissions

Sarah Gardner Mar 10, 2009
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EPA wants facilities to report emissions

Sarah Gardner Mar 10, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: The Environmental Protection Agency said today it wants to know exactly how many tons of greenhouse gasses American factories are producing every year. It is still just a proposal. But if it does wind up happening it would be the first comprehensive plan we’ve had for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. As it stands now, this country’s power plants, and automakers, oil refineries and all the rest release more than 25,000 metric tons of global-warming gases every year. Sarah Gardner’s here from the sustainability desk to explain what the proposal means. Hey Sarah.

SARAH GARDNER: Hi Kai.

Ryssdal: This is one of those stories that we call process. It’s just about the grind of lawmaking in the government. What does it actually mean?

GARDNER: Kai, this is really the first step toward regulating greenhouse gases in this country. If you’re going to impose a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, you have to know how much these industries are emitting, and we don’t know that right now. This would effect some 13,000 facilities around the country. Everything from power plants to oil refineries. Congress ordered the EPA to do this back in 2007. The Bush administration refused. Now, it looks like it’s going to happen.

Ryssdal: What do we know from the people who would be subjected to these limits? The manufacturers who are out there.

GARDNER: Well, there may be some initial quibbling. But some of this reporting, frankly, is going on already. Power plants, for example, have to measure in and report their acid rain emissions and in doing so they capture the CO2 data, so that’s going on already. But environmentalists say it’s important to start measuring and get this data before you do a cap and trade program. Europe did not do that, and the results were not good. This is David Doniger at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

DAVID DONIGER: When the first emission reports came out of Europe, they had overestimated how much pollution their facilities were emitting and they had issued too many permits. So they had crash in the price of the permits.

GARDNER: And some would argue, of course, that Europe’s cap and trade program has been struggling to recover ever since.

Ryssdal: Yeah, a lot of people would actually. If this is, as you say, the first step to regulating carbon, what does the economic picture look like? Because if there is going to be a cap and trade bill, will that happen in a down economy?

GARDNER: Yeah, it’s going to be difficult to pass. First, though, the EPA may beat Congress to the punch. Word is that as early as April 2, the EPA may declare CO2 a threat to human health and that triggers a rule-making process towards regulating greenhouse gases. But the preferred route, for many environmentalists anyway, is legislation. And it is going to be a big fight in Congress. Already, opponents have been framing this as a huge energy tax on the American public in the middle of a recession. And depending on how the economy is faring this spring and this summer, it could be very difficult to pass this.

Ryssdal: Yeah, as so much else depends. Sarah Gardner from the sustainability desk. Thanks Sarah.

GARDNER: Thank you.

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