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Groups ask state’s help in tracking emissions

Environmental organizations want to make companies report how much greenhouse gases they emit

Posted: Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cook Inletkeeper and several other environmental organizations have petitioned the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation asking that the state adopt regulations requiring companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

The petition came on the heels of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to re-evaluate its recent decision not to regulate certain greenhouse gas emissions (see story, page A-6). In a press release, the groups suggested that a final resolution of the issues before the court could take years, but that Alaska already has the power to require greenhouse gas reporting by major emitters.

Joining Cook Inletkeeper in petitioning the ADEC were the Alaska Center for the Environment, the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Conservation Solutions, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Audubon Alaska, the Defenders of Wildlife, the Native American Rights Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Sierra Club Alaska Chapter, and the Yukon River Watershed Inter-Tribal Council.

Arctic regions are known to be warming at generally twice the rate of the rest of the globe, and in Alaska’s arctic, the rate may be as high as four times the global rate. According to a greenhouse gas inventory available from the state, Alaskans have the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

“Alaska is ground zero for the impacts from global warming, and it should be leading the nation in seeking solutions to it,” said Randy Virgin, executive director for the Alaska Center for the Environment. “As a first step in this leadership role, Alaska needs to identify its major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and quantify those emissions.”

The petitioning organizations want the state to require major emitters to report their emissions and fossil fuel use. The proposal would not impose emissions controls, however.

The group noted that many major national companies, including some oil companies doing business in Alaska, already voluntarily report their emissions. The California Legislature last year required the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations requiring reporting. The federal Toxics Release Inventory program created in 1986 has led to substantial toxic emissions reductions and cost savings for industry, the group said.

“Reporting greenhouse gas emissions is a concrete, common-sense way for Alaska to start protecting our coastal communities in the face of rapid climate change,” said Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper. “The public has a right to know about greenhouse gas sources, and with carbon taxes and other federal controls on the horizon, a pubic reporting system will help Alaska businesses save money and make informed business decisions.”

The petition suggests that the information yielded by a mandatory reporting system would provide state policy-makers a foundation for developing a climate change strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The petition also says that ultimately, emission reduction targets would have to be set, and compliance would have to be assessed and enforced. For now, public reporting would “help ensure that emitters take public responsibility for their contributions to climate change,” and would “foster public awareness.”

Other states have taken similar steps to require reporting and inventorying, according to the organizations. Besides California, a reporting program is being developed in Arizona that may be expanded to become a multi-state registry. Meanwhile, 31 Northeastern and Midwestern states announced in March that they were working to develop a uniform multi-state registry. Congress is considering a bill to require the EPA to set up a national reporting and inventory program.

Gary Mandivil, regulations specialists with ADEC, said that no decision has been made how to react to the petition. Alaska statutes give ADEC Commissioner Lawrence Hartig 30 days to respond. Hartig could deny the petition or start the public process for adoption of regulations.

Mandivil said the process would work like any other regulatory adoption process and would include writing draft regulations, public comment periods, analysis and revisions and further comment periods, if necessary. The ADEC would work with the Alaska Department of Law to develop regulations. How long all that might take can’t be known at this point, Mandivil said.

The petitioners are represented by the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska. The petition can be viewed at www.trustees.org, www.akcenter.org, or www.inletkeeper.org.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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