4 The record articles

Tightening the Reins on GHG Emissions

Posted: March 7th, 2016

Author: All4 Staff 

The Obama Administration announced its “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector” (Strategy) in March 2014 outlining the steps that the Administration will take towards reducing United States (U.S.) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  The Administration, in their Strategy, targeted a number of key sources to build on the regulatory progress to date and to take steps to further cut methane (CH4) emissions from the following sources:

            • Landfills
            • Coal mines
            • Agriculture and
            • Oil and Gas


On August 14, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued two (2) proposed regulations intended to further reduce CH4 emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.  These proposals included a draft Emission Guideline (EG) and a supplemental draft New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) rule.  If finalized as proposed, the EG would apply to existing landfills and the NSPS rule would apply to landfills constructed or modified after July 17, 2014.  Comments on both proposals were accepted through October 2015, and both are expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2016.  If finalized as proposed, the threshold that triggers the installation of a landfill gas collection and control system (GCCS) for control of CH4 would be lowered from 50 to 34 megagrams per year (Mg/yr) for all landfills except existing, closed sites.  It would, among other changes, also eliminate the startup, shutdown, and malfunction provisions that currently apply for MSW landfills.

Coal mines

On January 15, 2016, the Obama administration unveiled a three (3) year moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.  This moratorium does not halt mining and production currently underway, but gives time to the Department of Interior (DOI) to review the leasing program.  According to the DOI Secretary, Sally Jewell, “We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years, and we have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.” According to a recent study by The Center for American Progress “Coal from federal lands in Wyoming and Montana, including the Powder River Basin, contributed more than 13 percent of all GHG emissions from fossil fuels in the United States and more than 10 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.”


In August 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. EPA, and U.S. Department of Energy developed the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap to outline the voluntary actions to reduce CH4 emissions through biogas systems.  The Roadmap supports the U.S. dairy industry’s voluntary 2008 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.  According to the Roadmap Fact Sheet, more than 11,000 additional biogas systems could be deployed in the United States.  If fully realized, these biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more than 3 million American homes and reduce methane emissions equivalent to 4 to 54 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the annual emissions of between 800,000 and 11 million passenger vehicles.

Oil and Gas

On August 18, 2015, the U.S. EPA proposed two (2) new regulations to reduce CH4 and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions from the oil and natural gas sector.  These regulations include:

  • Proposed Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources (NSPS) that regulates CH4 as a pollutant for the oil and gas sector entitled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New and Modified Sources;” and
  • A proposed Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for sources located in Indian Country entitled “Review of New Sources and Modifications in Indian Country: Federal Implementation Plan for Managing Air Emissions from True Minor Sources Engaged in Oil and Natural Gas Production in Indian Country.”

Concurrent with the proposed rules, U.S. EPA introduced a  proposal to clarify the term “adjacent” for New Source Review (NSR) purposes, entitled “Source Determination for Certain Emission Units in the Oil and Natural Gas Sector.  The “aggregation” proposal is intended to provide clarity regarding how oil and gas operations should be defined to evaluate major source status.

The U.S. EPA also released a draft Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG) entitled, “Release of Draft Control Techniques for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry” to reduce VOC emissions from existing oil and gas facilities that are located in ozone nonattainment areas.  Comments on the draft proposal were accepted through December 4, 2015.

While the Obama Administration tightens the reins on reducing GHG emissions through regulatory actions, U.S. EPA is also enhancing (i.e., expanding) the GHG emissions reporting process.

Previously, ALL4 discussed the Final 2015 revisions to the GHG Reporting Rule for the Oil and Gas Sector where U.S. EPA finalized reporting requirements for onshore petroleum and natural gas gathering and boosting activities, onshore natural gas transmissions pipelines, completion and workovers of oil wells with hydraulic fracturing, well identification numbers, and finalized confidentiality determination for new data elements.

Since then, U.S. EPA has proposed amendments to specific provisions within the following 30 subparts of the GHG Reporting Rule:

Subpart A (General Provisions) Subpart C (Stationary Combustion)
Subpart E (Adipic Acid Production) Subpart F (Aluminum Production)
Subpart G (Ammonia Manufacturing) Subpart I (Electronics Production)
Subpart N (Glass Production) Subpart O (HFC-22 Production and HFC-23 Destruction)
Subpart P (Hydrogen Production) Subpart Q (Iron and Steel Production)
Subpart S (Lime Manufacturing) Subpart U (Miscellaneous Uses of Carbonate)
Subpart V (Nitric Acid Production) Subpart X (Petrochemical Production)
Subpart Y (Petroleum Refineries) Subpart Z (Phosphoric Acid Production)
Subpart AA (Pulp and Paper Manufacturing) Subpart CC (Soda Ash Manufacturing)
Subpart DD (Electrical Transmission and Distribution Equipment Use) Subpart FF (Underground Coal Mines)
Subpart HH (Municipal Solid Waste Landfills) Subpart II (Industrial Wastewater Treatment)
Subpart LL (Suppliers of Coal-based Liquid Fuels) Subpart MM (Suppliers of Petroleum Products)
Subpart NN (Suppliers of Natural Gas and Natural Gas Liquids) Subpart OO (Suppliers of Industrial Greenhouse Gases)
Subpart PP (Suppliers of Carbon Dioxide) Subpart RR (Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide)
Subpart TT (Industrial Waste Landfills) Subpart UU (Injection of Carbon Dioxide)


According to the U.S. EPA Fact Sheet, the proposed amendments would include the following types of changes and would be implemented over reporting years 2016, 2017, and 2018:

  • Revisions to streamline implementation and reduce burden.  These changes would reduce or simplify requirements in a manner that would ease the burden on reporters and the U.S. EPA.  These changes include revising requirements to focus U.S. EPA and reporter resources on relevant data, removing reporting requirements for specific facilities that report little or no emissions or removing reported data that are no longer necessary.
  • Amendments to improve quality of data.  These amendments are needed to ensure that accurate data are being collected under the rule and would expand monitoring or reporting requirements that are necessary to improve verification and improve the accuracy of data used to inform the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (U.S. GHG Inventory).  For example, the proposed action would require underground coal mines reporting under subpart FF to use one (1) of two (2) existing methods, with some modification, to measure emissions from ventilation while eliminating the option to use a third, less accurate method.  These proposed revisions are intended to improve the quality of the data collected.
  • Minor amendments to better reflect industry processes and emissions.  These revisions include amendments to calculation, monitoring, or measurement methods that would address prior petitioner or commenter concerns including those that add flexibility for facilities.  For example, in response to stakeholder feedback, the proposed action would amend the conditions required to use different oxidation factors that are used for estimating emissions under municipal solid waste landfills (subpart HH).
  • Minor clarifications and corrections to improve understanding of the rule.  These revisions include corrections to errors in terms and definitions in certain equations; clarifications that provide additional information for reporters to better or more fully understand compliance obligations; and other editorial or harmonizing changes that would improve the public’s understanding of the rule.

U.S. EPA has extended the comment period on these proposed amendments from February 29, 2016, to March 30, 2016.

Although U.S. EPA is proposing revisions to 30 of these subparts, I have highlighted the significant proposed amendments for Subpart A (General Provisions) as well as five (5) example subparts that may be of interest to our readers as indicated in bold in the table.

Subpart A – General Provisions

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart A:

  • Provide an option for reporters to discontinue reporting if annual emissions are less than 25,000 mtCO2e for five (5) reporting years or less than 15,000 mtCO2e for three (3) reporting years, or if process operations are permanently shut down for both direct emitters and suppliers.
  • Identify provisions to discontinue reporting if any individual process or operation ceases operation.
  • Clarify if the operations of a facility or supplier are changed such that a process or operation no longer meets the ‘‘Definition of Source Category’’ as specified in an applicable subpart, then the owner or operator is exempt from reporting under any such subpart for the reporting years following the year in which the change occurs, provided that the owner or operator submits a notification to the Administrator that announces the cessation of reporting for the process or operation no later than March 31 of the year following such changes.
  • Limit resubmittal of reports to five (5) years prior to the current reporting year.
  • Include the option to report fluorinated GHGs and fluorinated heat transfer fluids (HTF) individually.
  • Revise 40 CFR §98 (c)(4) and (5) to include two (2) additional identifiers of fluorinated GHGs and fluorinated HTFs.
  • Update the certificate of representation (COR) to require a list of all the 40 CFR 98 subparts under which a facility or supplier intends to report.
  • Add provision (40 CFR §98.2(i)(6)) to include a requirement that a facility must inform the U.S. EPA whenever the facility (or supplier) stops reporting under one (1) e-GGRT identification number because the emissions (or quantity supplied) are being reported under another e-GGRT identification number.
  • Revise 40 CFR §98.3(h)(4) to simplify the process for requesting an extension for the reporter to respond to U.S. EPA’s questions on a submitted report or submit a revised report to correct a reporting error identified by U.S. EPA during report verification.
  • Amend the definition of ‘‘gas collection system’’ to clarify that active venting systems that convey landfill gas to the surface of the landfill by mechanical convection, but the landfill gas is never recovered or thermally destroyed prior to release to the atmosphere, are not considered a landfill gas collection system.
  • Amend the definition for ‘‘ventilation hole or shaft’’ in 40 CFR §98.6 to clarify that the term ‘‘vent hole or shaft’’ for mine ventilation systems includes mine portals, adits, and other mine entrances and exits used to move air from the ventilation system out of the mine.

Subpart C – Stationary Combustion

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart C:

  •  Require reporting of the moisture content used to correct the default high heating value (HHV) for wood and wood residuals.
  •  Require reporting of the heat input capacity for all units greater than 10 million British thermal units per hr (MMBtu/hr) for emissions reported using the aggregation of units (GP) and common pipe (CP) configurations.
  • Clarify the reporting requirements when the results of HHV sampling are received less frequently than monthly for certain sources.
  • Streamline of the conversion factors used to convert short tons to metric tons.
  • Revise Tables C–1 and C–2 to more clearly define emissions factors for certain petroleum products.

Subpart Y – Petroleum Refineries

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart Y:

  • Clarify that pilot gas, which is considered the gas used to maintain a pilot flame at the flare tip, may be excluded from the quantity of flare gas used to perform GHG emissions calculations.
  • Add a requirement that facilities provide a yes/no indication as to whether a flare has a flare gas recovery system.
  • Provide a new methodology that will more accurately determine emissions from delayed coking units (DCU).
  • Clarify the appropriate equations to be used for reporters with an asphalt blowing unit with a control device other than a vapor scrubber, thermal oxidizer, or flare.

Subpart AA – Pulp and Paper Manufacturing

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart AA:

  • Clarify that Tier 4 continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) are not to be used for reporting emissions under Subpart AA.
  •  Amend the requirements to allow the use of the daily mass of spent liquor solids fired in megagrams (Mg) or tons per day as an alternative to using the maximum rate for the combustion unit or that the fuel meter can measure.
  •  Amend Table AA-2 to clarify requirements for Kraft lime kilns and fluidized bed calciners at Kraft mills.

Subpart II – Industrial Wastewater Treatment

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart II:

  • Require facilities that perform ethanol production to indicate if their facility uses a wet milling process or a dry milling process.
  • Add the definition of “weekly average” to clarify how to calculate weekly averages for chemical oxygen and 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) concentration, CH4 concentration, biogas temperature, biogas moisture content, and biogas pressure.

Subpart TT – Industrial Waste Landfills

U.S. EPA is proposing the following amendments to 40 CFR Part 98 Subpart TT:

  • Provide new default degradable organic carbon (DOC) for waste disposed values for the following industrial waste streams:
    • Boiler ash – 0.06
    • Kraft recovery wastes – 0.025
    • Pulp and paper wastewater sludge – 0.12
    • Other pulp and paper wastes – 0.20
  • Add a note to clarify that kraft recovery waste also includes green liquor, slaker grits, and lime mud.

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