On Jan. 1, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will, for the first time, require large emitters of heat-trapping emissions to begin collecting greenhouse gas data under a new reporting system. This new program will cover approximately 85 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities.

The only emission source in the agriculture sector covered by the rule is manure management systems at livestock operations with greenhouse gas emissions that meet or exceed the threshold of 25,000 metric tons, according to an EPA  Frequently Asked Questions supplement. EPA modeling estimates that just over 100 manure management systems at large livestock operations meet this threshold.

If emissions from a manure management system at a livestock facility are less than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year either due to the system size, design, or as a result of a methane capture system, then that facility would not be required to report. Methane that is captured for use rather than emitted does not count toward the threshold level.

“This is a major step forward in our effort to address the greenhouse gases polluting our skies,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “For the first time, we begin collecting data from the largest facilities in this country, ones that account for approximately 85 percent of the total U.S. emissions. The American public, and industry itself, will finally gain critically important knowledge and with this information we can determine how best to reduce those emissions.”

EPA’s new reporting system will provide a better understanding of where greenhouse gases are coming from and will guide development of the best possible policies and programs to reduce emissions. The data will also allow businesses to track their own emissions, compare them to similar facilities, and provide assistance in identifying cost effective ways to reduce emissions in the future. This comprehensive, nationwide emissions data will help in the fight against climate change. 
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Source: EPA

Anaerobic digestion systems that capture methane from manure and convert it to energy can allow livestock operations to avoid these reporting regulations. These systems are expensive but are becoming more widespread, especially in dairies but also in feedyards and hog operations. Once installed, the system can supply much of the operation’s energy needs. EPA estimates that more than 2,000 livestock facilities across the United States could benefit from biogas recovery systems. Iowa State University is coordinating a short course on how to produce energy from manure using anaerobic digestion next week, in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

ISU also offers a collection of resources on methane generation and recovery on the Iowa Manure Management Action Group Web site. — John Maday, managing editor