Industry Checks Air Board Emissions Inventory

By Published On: November 30, 2007

Next week, California regulators are expected to establish a 2020 emissions limit under the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. The limit indicates that state businesses, municipalities, and residents must trim greenhouse gases by 29 percent over the next 12 years. Energy industry representatives expressed support for the law, but complained that the Air Board’s emissions inventory is riddled with inconsistencies. They asked board staff to hold a special meeting with industry representatives to iron out their differences. Air Board staff was disinclined to open special stakeholder meetings. Staff responded that it could change the inventory, and its 2020 emission limit, during regular document updates under AB 32. The figures provide a general outline of the magnitude of the effort required to meet the state’s ambitious law, according to Webster Tasant, California Air Resources Board emissions inventory analysis section manager. He revealed the data during a November 26 workshop. The meeting was in preparation for the Air Board’s expected adoption of the state’s official greenhouse gas emissions inventory in El Monte on December 6. The inventory projects that unless California takes steps to change what Tasant called “business as usual” practices, greenhouse emissions are likely to hit 600 million metric tons in 2020, up from 484 million metric tons in 2004, the latest year of data available. To meet AB 32, Tasant explained, the state must reduce its emissions to the 1990 level by 2020, which the Air Board said totaled 427 million metric tons. The inventory shows emissions must be cut by 173 million metric tons, he said. The Air Board’s estimate for greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 is slightly higher than figures in previous inventories by the California Climate Action Team and the California Energy Commission. The changes result from different methods of estimating emissions. That includes, for instance, including greenhouse gases stemming from power exported to other states from California, explained Air Board staff members. The Air Board inventory “leaves us not knowing where to go in the future,” said Bud Beebe, Sacramento Municipal Utility District regulatory affairs manager. “Virtually all of the electricity suppliers in California have multiple issues,” he added. One industry beef is that the Air Board inventory includes power exports. The data are thus inconsistent, according to utilities, because the energy is not used here in California. Another key issue for the industry, according to Beebe, is how emissions will be calculated for compliance purposes. Other industry representatives claimed that the inventory’s emissions levels for the electricity industry–particularly for out of state power imported into California–are too low. The Air Board has the opportunity to adjust the inventory as it regularly updates the document under AB 32, according to Tasant. Air Board staff members added that they included emissions from power exports from California because the law charges them with covering all greenhouse gas emissions in California. According to the Air Board, in 1990, transportation accounted for 35 percent of greenhouse gases. It found electricity generation contributed 25 percent, industry 24 percent, residences 7 percent, agriculture 5 percent, and commercial operations 3 percent. Of the gases covered by the inventory, CO2 accounted for 89 percent of the emissions, methane 6 percent, nitrous oxide 4 percent, sulfur hexafluoride 1 percent, and halogenated gases a bit less than 1 percent. The Air Board already outlined so-called early action measures it can enforce beginning in 2010 to trim emissions. The remaining reductions are to be devised in an AB 32 scoping plan the Air Board intends to develop beginning November 30 and adopt by the end of next year.

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