• CARB Accepting Comments on New Draft Greenhouse Gas Emission Requirements for All Local Governments
  • August 12, 2008 | Authors: Cyndy Day-Wilson; Greta Proctor
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - San Diego Office
  • On June 19, 2008, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released for public review and comment the Draft Local Government Operations Protocol (Protocol), which would impose on local governments new quantifying and reporting requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Commenting on this proposed regulation offers public agencies an opportunity to have some input on its ultimate provisions, and Best Best & Krieger LLP is available to aid in formulating and submitting comments on its clients’ behalf.

    Under AB 32, local governments must seek methods to reduce the GHG emissions of their own operations by taking inventory of and tracking emissions, and creating quantifiable and transparent strategies to further reduce them. The Protocol is designed to guide local governments, agencies and districts in this attempt by standardizing how local facilities should identify, quantify and report GHG emissions.  The Protocol structure allows local governments to utilize a single guidance document when developing GHG emissions inventories for the California Air Resources Board’s implementation of AB 32’s mandatory GHG reporting regulation, as well inventories required for a Local Government Operation Standard Inventory Report or other existing programs by the California Climate Action Registry.

    Identifying Emissions

    The Protocol will require local governments to assess emissions in all facilities for each of the six internationally-recognized GHGs including: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. Under the Protocol, these must be tracked and reported separately in metric tons, as well as in metric tons of CO2 equivalent to promote common comparison.  Local governments must set an organizational boundary for GHG accounting and reporting according to one of two control approaches—operational control or financial control.  The operational control boundaries outlined in the Protocol and required by AB 32 should be utilized where the government has full authority over a facility, rather than financial control boundaries which are applicable when the agency merely governs the financial policies of a facility.  The local government must apply the same control across all operations.   The Protocol calls for identification of GHG emissions in leased facilities and vehicles as well, as though such facilities are wholly owned or according to the approach of the owner.  Direct and indirect emissions are separately designated under three Emission Scopes: Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (indirect emissions) , and Scope 3 (all other emissions).  GHG emissions must also be categorized according to local government sectors, for instance whether the emissions are from a building or vehicle.

    Quantifying Emissions

    To quantify GHG emissions, the Protocol calls for calculation methods based upon “activity data” such as fuel consumption, as well as “emission factors” such as the ratio of pounds of CO2 over kWh.  These figures are calculated to convert the activity data into GHG emissions.  Typically GHG emissions will be expressed as Activity Data x Emission Factor = Emissions to ensure consistent quantification.  The Protocol provides a “recommended” designation for facilities with the time, resources and data, and an “alternate” designation for facilities without access to the time or data required for the recommended approach.  According to the Protocol, all local governments must strive to follow the recommended approach, but both the recommended and alternate approach are designed to cover vehicle fleet, power generation facilities, solid waste facilities, centralized wastewater treatment facilities, and everything in between.  The Protocol calls for disclosure by local governments of the type of activity data and emission factors used in calculation of their emissions.

    Reporting Emissions

    The Protocol provides a new standardized report form for local governments to report quantified emissions.  The form is broken down into local government profile information, GHG inventory details, activity data disclosure, and methodology/emission factors disclosure. There are also program-specific reporting requirements separately outlined by CARB and the California Climate Action Registry which vary slightly from the Protocol.

    Submitting Comments on the Draft Protocol

    The comment period for the Draft Local Government Operations Protocol ends July 18.