The U.S. Environmental Agency is proposing what it calls a "comprehensive national system" for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. The move will enable the EPA to do a better job of regulating them, the organization says.  

The EPA already collects greenhouse emissions data from sources such as coal-fired power plants. But it wants to expand and likely tight the reporting requirements to cover other major sources, including suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial chemicals, carmakers, engine manufacturers and anyone who emit 25,000 or more metric tons per year. Other affected industries would include producers of cement, iron and steel.

The EPA said its proposed system would cover 13,000 facilities, or 85 percent to 90 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by major polluters in the country. The reason that the system would cover that much emissions is because the EPA would require carmakers to also report emissions generated by their cars, trucks, other road vehicles, aircraft engines and locomotive engines, among others, an EPA spokeswoman said. 

The proposal, released Tuesday, also would pave the way for a national program to cap pollution and trade emissions allowances. The program would limit how much pollution can be emitted by different industries and require companies that emit more than allowed to buy from those who emit less.

President Obama is counting on the cap-and-trade program to provide $646 billion from 2012 to 2019 to fund his greentech and other initiatives. Top officials in his administration, such as the Energy Secretary Steve Chu, have been nudging lawmakers to act quickly (see Chu's Wish List: Cap-and-Trade and Cheaper Solar).

Democratic leaders in Congress are working on legislation to create the program, though some of them already disagree with Obama on key issues. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Obama's plan to auction all of the emissions allowances would cost businesses too much money. Bingaman said the government should give away some of the allowances for free to certain types of businesses, such as cement factory operators, while selling the rest.

The EPA said the Clean Air Act gives it the authority to develop the new emissions reporting program.

Under the proposal, businesses that have to comply would submit their first annual reports to the EPA in 2011 – the reports would contain data from calendar year 2010. First reports from car and engine makers would cover model year 2011.

The reporting requirements would cost the affected industries about $160 million in the first year, and the amount is expected to fall to $127 million per year thereafter, the EPA estimated.

The public has 60 days to comment on the EPA proposal.