Competitive protections proposed for chem companies
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December 03, 2013
Competitive protections proposed for chem companies

Under pressure from industry, the EPA is proposing to amend the trade secret provisions for fluorinated gas production facilities that must report under the federal greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting program.  The proposed change is accompanied by a set of proposed technical amendments affecting GHG reporting by the sector.

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The EPA published the original GHG reporting rule for fluorinated gas production in December 2010.  The Agency subsequently deferred reporting of certain elements because of concerns its release to the public could compromise the competitive position of companies.  Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), emissions data reported to the EPA may not be withheld from the public.  In January 2012, the EPA responded to industry concerns by proposing that the chemical identities and quantities of the fluorinated GHG emissions at the process level are emissions data, not eligible for confidential treatment, and, once reported, must be made available to the public. 

National security

In comments on the proposal, both the American Chemistry Council and the 3M Company stated that the disclosure of the identity and quantities of the fluorinated GHGs emitted at the process level, from either process vents or fugitive sources, would reveal trade secrets regarding individual chemical production processes.  Competitors would be able to duplicate these processes without having to incur research and development costs, putting the reporting companies at a disadvantage. 

The commenters also stated that the release of some data elements would publicly disclose information subject to Export Administration Regulations and International Traffic in Arms Regulations that prohibit public disclosure for reasons of national security, antiterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, and chemical and biological weapons security.

Reporting by group

Accordingly, the EPA is now proposing to permanently amend the requirements for fluorinated gas production to require reporting at a less aggregated level. 

Specifically, the Agency would require owners and operators of facilities producing fluorinated gases to report:

  1. Emissions by fluorinated GHG group (chemical type) at the process level for each generically defined production or transformation process, and

     

  2. Emissions by chemical at the facility level for certain fluorinated GHG emissions.

Fluorinated GHG emissions would be reported by chemical at the facility level when:

  • The fluorinated GHG is emitted in quantities above 1,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e) and the facility produced more than one fluorinated gas product, or
  • For facilities that produced only one fluorinated gas product, the fluorinated GHG emitted was a major fluorinated GHG constituent of a fluorinated gas product and the fluorinated gas product was sold or otherwise transferred to another person.

These changes would apply only to emissions from production and transformation processes.  Emissions from venting of container heels and destruction of previously produced fluorinated GHGs would be reported by chemical and by process, as required by the 2010 final rule.

New default GWPs

Other proposed changes include replacing the two default global warming potentials (GWP) that are currently used to calculate and report CO2e emissions with five default GWPs based on fluorinated GHG group; removing the mass-balance method, which is no longer used by any facility to report emissions; and clarifying that facilities using the emissions factor method to estimate their  emissions are required, in future testing, to test for any fluorinated GHG identified in the scoping speciation, and to report emissions of all fluorinated GHGs that are identified in the scoping speciation.

The amended reporting requirements would apply to the previously deferred reporting of detailed reporting year 2011, 2012, and 2013 emissions as well as to reporting year 2014 and subsequent emissions.

The proposed amendments were published in the November 19, 2013, FR.

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