WASHINGTON — Some of America's largest emitters of heat-trapping
gases, including businesses that publicly support efforts to curb global
warming, don't want the public knowing exactly how much they pollute.
producers and refiners, along with manufacturers of steel, aluminum and
even home appliances, are fighting a proposal by the Environmental
Protection Agency that would make the amount of greenhouse gas emissions
that companies release — and the underlying data businesses use to
calculate the amounts — available online.
As the EPA prepares to
regulate greenhouse gases, the data companies are being required to
submit will help determine what limits eventually are put in place and
whether they are working.
While gross estimates exist for such
emissions from transportation and electricity production and
manufacturing as a whole, the EPA is requiring companies for the first
time to submit information for each individual facility.
companies say that disclosing details beyond a facility's total
emissions to the public would reveal company secrets by letting
competitors know what happens inside their factories. More importantly,
they argue, when it comes to understanding global warming, the public
doesn't need to know anything more than what goes into the air.
is no need for the public to have information beyond what is entering
the atmosphere," Steven H. Bernhardt, global director for regulatory
affairs for Honeywell International Inc., said in comments filed with
the agency earlier this year. The New Jersey-based company is a leading
manufacturer of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in a
variety of consumer products. Honeywell wants the EPA to reconsider its
proposal, which the company said would damage its business.
companies are pressing the agency to require a third party to verify the
data, so they don't have to submit it at all, or to allow them to argue
on a case-by-case basis to keep some of it confidential, a suggestion
the EPA warned would delay public release.
The EPA says it's necessary to make the data public in order for the companies' calculations to be checked.
is important for outside groups and the public to have access to this
information so they can essentially see and check EPA's and the
company's math — giving the public greater confidence in the quality of
data," the agency said in a statement.
The EPA required companies
responsible for large amounts of heat-trapping pollution to begin this
year collecting 1,500 pieces of information. The data, which is due to
be reported by March, will be used in the first-ever inventory of
greenhouse gases, a massive database that will reveal most sources of
greenhouse gases in the United States.
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Suppliers of fossil fuels,
which when burned release greenhouse gases, plus manufacturers of
engines and vehicles, and facilities that release 25,000 tons or more of
any of six heat-trapping gases, all must comply with the regulation,
the first by the government on pollution blamed for global warming.
companies don't have a problem telling the government or the public how
much they pollute; they already do it for other types of pollution,
such as toxic chemicals and sulfur dioxide, the gas that forms acid
What they oppose — almost unanimously — is the public
disclosure of the underlying data necessary to calculate the annual
amount of greenhouse gases.
The EPA wouldn't need that information
if companies actually measured greenhouse gas pollution at its source.
But that equipment is expensive and for many companies would cost
millions of dollars.
Even the Federal Trade Commission has weighed
in, and asked the EPA to treat data used in emissions equations as
confidential since it could lead to collusion among companies and raise
prices for consumers.
Aluminum smelters want 11 of the 15 data
fields the EPA intends to make public kept confidential, according to
comments filed by the Aluminum Association.
Koch Nitrogen Co. LLC,
a fertilizer producer, questions the EPA's desire to make unit-specific
or facility-specific emissions available, calling it "misguided" since a
change in pollution from a single factory is unlikely to influence
policy on a global problem.
For DuPont, a founder of the U.S.
Climate Action Partnership — a group of businesses that support controls
on global warming pollution — the proposal has caused heartburn,
according to Michael Parr, senior manager of government affairs. Many of
the company's plants, including a titanium dioxide factory in
Tennsylvania, release greenhouse gases when generating power.
actually lobbied for this reporting bill because we think it is a very
good idea," Parr said in an interview. "What we are trying to get across
is that if you take that information about how the plant runs and you
make that available to the public it does not make the public any better
informed about what is coming out of my plant. It exposes the fruits of
all my innovation."