Last Wednesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled an online, searchable Greenhouse Gas database. The user-friendly database allows you to search for reported emissions from most major sectors by location or business name. In addition, the results can be filtered to examine particular gases and levels. Gases can be selected from the reported list of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, Methane, PFC-14, PFC-116 and HFC-23. Users can limit the emission range from 0 to 23,000,000 MT Carbon Dioxide emitted.
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The new database fulfills the requirements set by a 2008 appropriations bill. The EPA hopes that by making this data easy to obtain will increase public pressure for decreasing emissions on emitting facilities. Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for air and radiation at the EPA stated, "We’re hopeful that the information will be a strong driver of greenhouse-gas reduction.”
A Supreme Court decision in 2007 triggered the process by which EPA is now mandated to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from all sectors of the economy. It has already started addressing such emissions from the transportation sector — which accounts for about 30 percent of the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions — through the administration’s tougher fuel-economy standards.
As I mentioned in this blog post, the EPA is facing a court appointed deadline this year to propose regulations for power plants and refineries this year. Currently, coal-based power plants account for 40% of all of the US greenhouse gas emissions, and those plants produce approximately 45% of the country’s electricity. Any regulations would not effect these existing plants, but would strictly regulate new power plants. According to McCarthy, there are no plans currently to build new power plants. When asked about possible control of existing plants, she stated, “We have not prepared any proposal for existing facilities at this point.” This means that any regulations that are implemented will be limited in their power to address the concerns of environmental groups on the current levels of US emissions.
One other interesting thing to note is that all of these regulations are based on Supreme Court-mandated ability of the EPA to regulate Carbon Dioxide, which is listed as a pollutant by the Clean Air Act. Industry groups, utilities, and states and challenging this authority in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with a ruling expected in February.
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