White House Issues Updated Guidance for Tracking Federal Agency Emissions

By Avery Fellow  

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The White House Council on Environmental Quality March 12 issued revised draft guidance for federal agencies to measure and report on greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft clarifies previous guidance on how agencies should account for purchases of renewable energy and renewable energy certificates, or RECs.

The draft proposes revisions to guidelines issued in October 2010 that established governmentwide requirements for calculating and reporting greenhouse gas emissions associated with federal agency operations, including agency supply chains (see related story; 194 WCCR, 10/6/10).

The draft revised guidance clarifies requirements for agencies hosting third-party operated renewable energy projects on federal land. If an agency purchases renewable energy certificates from projects hosted on agency land, the RECs can contribute to the agency's emissions reductions goals for Scope 2 emissions, or indirect emissions from purchased electricity.

If the agency does not purchase RECs, the agency can receive “hosting credits,” which can be put toward achieving an agency's goals for Scope 3 emissions—indirect emissions from transport, waste disposal, and other activities. The hosting credits have no emission reduction value, but they can be used to show progress toward achieving Scope 3 goals, according to the draft guidance.

Covers Voluntary Reporting

The draft also includes guidance for voluntarily reporting of emissions. This includes voluntary reporting from federal assets that are leased by agencies, emissions from agency vendors and contractors, as well as emissions from fertilizer use, composting, and manure management.

Under the new draft, agencies must report the net carbon stock of biomass, dead wood, litter, and soil on federal lands beginning in fiscal year 2013. Agencies must provide the information to the U.S. Forest Service every five years.

CEQ also included emissions from waste incineration in the category for Scope 3 emissions in the draft.

The draft revised guidance also states that agencies may voluntarily report the production, purchase, or sale of carbon offsets. Carbon offsets cannot be used to meet a federal agency's emissions reductions targets.

The draft revised guidance reflects recommendations made by a federal interagency work group that were submitted in fall 2011. The work group is co-chaired by the Energy Department's Federal Energy Management Program, the Defense Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As agencies learn from their experience implementing the initial guidance, we are applying this knowledge in our continual quest to make Federal emissions reporting as accurate as possible,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in a statement.

Reporting Required by Executive Order

Federal agencies are required to measure, report, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under Executive Order No. 13,514, which was signed by President Obama in 2009. The order is aimed at increasing the sustainability of the federal government by encouraging greater use of clean energy and reducing emissions.

Federal agencies first submitted GHG inventories in January 2011, which accounted for the GHG emissions associated with their operations in 2010. CEQ released the first governmentwide greenhouse gas emissions inventory in April 2011.

The greenhouse gases covered by Executive Order No. 13,514 and the guidance are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

Government Targets Set

President Obama set a governmentwide target for reducing emissions from federal buildings, fuel use, and other emissions by 28 percent by 2020 compared with 2008. He also set a goal to reduce indirect emissions, including those generated by employee commuting and landfill waste, by 13 percent reduction by 2020. The targets are projects to save the government up to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.

CEQ is accepting public comment on the draft until April 11, according to a notice published in the Federal Register March 12 (77 Fed. Reg. 14,507). Comments may be submitted to GHG.Guidance@ceq.eop.gov.

For More Information

For more information on the draft revised guidance, contact Keith Dennis, CEQ senior program manager, at (202) 456-5226.