Colorado Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The Colorado Senate passed SB 19-096 in May of this year in an effort to establish cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions. This bill builds upon the original directive given in 2018, which was to develop a greenhouse gas reporting tool which mirrored that which is already in place on the federal level in the event that reporting is suspended by the EPA. Instead SB 19-096 mandates that the Air Quality Control Commission adopt rules requiring greenhouse gas emitting entities to monitor and publicly report their emissions every one to two years in an effort to achieve Colorado’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. This additional reporting will be meant to fill in data gaps that exist at the federal level and must include a recalculation of Colorado’s 2005 emissions as a baseline.

The next step on the road to establishing cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reduction goals is for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to publish the most updated state greenhouse gas report. A draft was recently released by CDPHE and is located here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1120LdxmecGTuf7uil9l6YmjOQonYOnxV/view

The report being released this year is for data through 2015. The state of Colorado did the first inventory in 1990 and they have been trying to update it about every 5 years. In 2014 CDPHE used the state used the State Inventory Tool (SIT), which is a spreadsheet-based program from the EPA that all states can use. Emission factors used in the SIT are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and EPA guidance. The 2019 report also uses the SIT tool.

There are strengths and weaknesses of the SIT tool. It does provide some consistency between states and it incorporates updates to methodology. It uses 1990 baseline data and runs through the most recent data year (which is through 2015 and reported in 2019). It also provides default activity data and emission factors.

Unfortunately, the tool also has some limitations. The biggest issue is that it has a 3-5-year data lag. Also, not all data is state specific and may be incomplete. Projections use different methodology and some calculations are not transparent. It also has limited ability to assess policy impacts. This methodology only shows emissions that are a snapshot in time.

There was not huge change from 1990 to 2015 in Colorado but projections by most sectors from 2010-2015 are trending down. In 1990 electric power and transportation were big contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The bullets below are from data through 2015:

  • Electric power is down. The amount coal being burned is down, but natural gas is increasing. Overall fuel use is decreasing.
  • Emissions from oil and natural gas have increased. Natural gas and oil have seen huge increases in production and in the report, emissions track the number of wells. However, the SIT doesn’t include data to account for reductions.
    Agriculture has increased from manure and fertilizer applications.
  • Coal mining emissions are way down.
  • Transportation has increased with population. However, even though Colorado has had an increase in population, the per capita emissions are decreasing. Transportation emissions since 2010 are starting to decrease, which is due to more efficient vehicles and turnover in fleet.
  • Gross state product has increased and emissions relative to gross state product are decreasing.
    Heating, which includes heating homes, industrial, and commercial heating is growing.
  • Industrial processes like cement, limestone, dolomite and semiconductor manufacturing have been trending up and will continue as population increases.
  • Waste management which includes landfills and wastewater treatment have shown that emissions are increasing.

On November 21st, 2019 the division is scheduled to give a briefing to the Air Quality Control Commission to review the requirements from SB-096, present proposed changes to the inventory process and to provide a progress update. The initial rulemaking is scheduled for a Request for Hearing in February 2020 and then a hearing will be in May 2020. SB 19-096 calls for measures that would implement cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reduction goals to be published by July 1, 2020.

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