In a major climate change rulemaking, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued final regulations that will require most large emitters of greenhouse gases in the U.S. to report their emissions beginning in 2010.

The new EPA program will cover approximately 85% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities. Mandatory data collection will begin for most facilities on Jan. 1, 2010, with submission of the reports coming in early 2011.

The rule covers all facilities that emit 25,000 tons or more of the most dangerous heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and other fluorinated gases.

Electric utilities have been required to report their CO2 emissions for more than a decade, and the new rule requires that if emissions of one of the covered gases exceed the 25,000-ton threshold, then a facility must report emissions of all covered gases it emits regardless of the amount of each gas it emits.

That means that utilities will also have to report their emissions of SF6, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that utilities use—in very small quantities—in transmission equipment.

However, the EPA has delayed final rules for a number of key sectors and greenhouse gas emission sources, including oil and gas systems, ethanol production, underground coal mines and coal suppliers, and SF6 from electrical equipment. The EPA said it is delaying a reporting mandate for these sectors to “further consider comments and options” for these sectors.

The rules, mandated by Congress in the 2008 omnibus appropriations bill, were cheered by environmentalists, who said it will provide transparency about the U.S. share of emissions blamed for global warming.

In one of several changes to an earlier proposal, the EPA added a mechanism for facilities and supplies to end annual reporting if they reduce their emissions below the 25,000-ton threshold or if facilities close.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) praised the EPA for making that change, saying it would give companies an incentive to cut their emissions. However, NAM slammed the EPA for setting its reporting threshold at 25,000 tons rather than adopting NAM’s proposal to set it at 100,000 tons per year. NAM said its benchmark would have reduced the number of companies subject to reporting from around 13,000 to 7,000 while still capturing 82% of greenhouse emissions, only 3% less than the EPA’s plan.

—George Lobsenz (globsenz@accessintel.com) is the editor of COAL POWER’s sister publication, The Energy Daily.