7 US-based emissions reporting mandates with potential penalties you should know about
The SEC’s proposed guidelines for climate reporting mark a turning point for emissions regulation in the United States. While the guidelines aren’t yet set in stone, new emissions-reporting mandates are cropping up in cities and states across the country. Regardless of the SEC outcome, certain parts of the country will continue to strengthen their mandates. Staying aware during this transitional period is crucial for avoiding strict penalties.
In this post, we’re outlining 7 US-based emissions reporting mandates to be aware of. While requirements may evolve over time, tracking utility data will remain the best path toward compliance.
1. Washington State Emission Reporting Mandates
The Washington State Department of Commerce introduced the Clean Building Performance Standards program to lower fossil fuel consumption for the state’s existing buildings.
Signed in 2019 and expanded in 2022, the bill incentivizes building owners who make energy efficiency improvements earlier than required by law.
Benchmarking is the first step to establishing a building performance metric and achieving compliance. Washington State building owners will also need to create an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (ESPM) account, then contact utility providers to integrate buildings into that account.
Other necessary steps include establishing the weather-normalized energy use intensity (WNEUI) and energy use intensity target (EUIt) for each building in accordance with Annex Z, Section Z6.2. Buildings that can’t develop a target EUI should pursue compliance according to the investment criteria performance metric and are not required to create an ESPM.
Who is required to comply with the Clean Building Performance Standards?
Building owners in Washington State who meet the following requirements must comply with the Clean Buildings program. Affected buildings fall into two tiers.
Tier 1 Buildings:
- Greater than 50,000 square feet, not including multifamily residential buildings
- Rules established in WAC 194-50
Tier 2 Buildings:
- Fall within 20,000 and 50,000 square feet, including multifamily residential buildings over 50,000 square feet.
- Required to benchmark and implement an energy management plan
The Clean Buildings Performance Standard is mandatory for all Tier 1 buildings in Washington state. Tier 1 Buildings exceed 50,000 gross square feet for all nonresidential, hotel, motel and dormitory floor areas (parking garage areas are excluded from that total).
All buildings owned by churches or non-profits that meet the Tier 1 criteria must comply. Additionally, all institutional occupancies are considered Tier 1 Buildings, including nursing homes and senior care/assisted living facilities.
|Tier 1||Tier 2|
|>50,000 square feet||20,000-50,000 square feet|
|Doesn’t include multifamily residential buildings||Includes multifamily residential buildings > 50,000 square feet.|
|Rules established in WAC 194-50||Required to benchmark and implement an energy management plan|
|Includes churches, nonprofits, nursing homes and assisted living facilities||Rules will be complete by December 2023|
When do emission reports for the Clean Building Performance Standards start?
Tier 1 regulations take effect on the following dates:
- June 1, 2026: Over 220,000 square feet
- June 1, 2027: 90,000 square feet to 220,000 square feet
- June 1, 2028: 50,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet
Tier 2 reporting is expected to start in July of 2027.
What are the potential penalties associated with the Clean Building Performance Standards?
Currently, the maximum fine for noncompliance is $5,000 plus an annual penalty of $1/year/GFA sq-ft.
Tier 1 Buildings can apply for an exemption if they meet at least the exemption criteria from section Z4.1 of the standard. Exemption certificates are only valid for the current compliance review cycle.
Exemption applications must be accepted by Commerce between 180 and 365 days prior to the compliance date. Because this application time frame leaves little time to meet compliance deadlines if denied, the regulation is being adjusted to allow applications prior to the 180-day mark.
What are the incentives for businesses to comply with the Clean Buildings Performance Standard?
Tier 1 Incentives:
The Early Adopter Incentive Program is available to Tier 1 or multifamily buildings greater than 50,000 square feet. These buildings must be served by at least one electric utility, gas company or thermal energy company. Because this is a state incentive, it is administered in addition to utility conservation incentives. Utilities must pay public utility tax to participate in the Early Adopter Incentive Program.
Participating buildings must be 15 energy use intensity (EUI) or more above the target. They also must be fully compliant with the Clean Buildings Standard and its EUIt.
Building owners will receive a one-time base incentive payment of $0.85 per square foot, excluding parking, unconditioned and semi-conditioned spaces. Incentive funds cannot exceed $75 million.
Tier 2 incentives:
The expansion bill includes an incentive program with an additional $150 million available for Tier 2 buildings at a rate of $0.30 per square foot.
Read more about the Clean Buildings Performance Standards on the Washington State Department of Commerce’s website.
2. Washington, D.C. Emission Reporting Mandates
The Building Energy Performance Standard program was created to help the District achieve its short and long-term climate commitments, including a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2032 and full carbon neutrality by 2050.
If a building is eligible for an ENERGY STAR score, that score must be greater than or equal to the District median ENERGY STAR score for buildings of each property type.
There are various compliance pathways, including:
- Performance pathway: requires a building to demonstrate 20% less normalized site energy use intensity averaged over the last 2 years of the 5-year compliance cycle.
- Prescriptive pathway: allows buildings to achieve compliance by implementing cost-effective energy efficiency measures with savings comparable to the performance pathway.
- Other: other DOEE-established compliance pathways
DOEE will establish campus-wide industry performance standards for post-secondary educational institutions and hospitals with multiple buildings in a single area.
Who is required to comply with the Building Energy Performance Standard program?
This program previously applied to privately owned buildings with at least 50,000 square feet of gross floor area and all district-owned or district instrumentally-owned buildings with at least 10,000 square feet of gross floor area.
As of 2023, all privately owned buildings of at least 25,000 square feet of gross floor area must comply.
Privately owned buildings with at least 10,000 square feet will be expected to report in 2026.
|Jan 1 2021||Jan 1 2023||Jan 1 2026|
|Privately owned buildings > 50,000 square feet||Privately owned buildings > 25,000 square feet||Privately owned buildings >10,000 square feet|
|All district-owned or district instrumentally-owned buildings >10,000 square feet|
When do emission reports for the Building Energy Performance Standard program start?
- January 1, 2021: Privately owned buildings with at least 50,000 square feet
- January 1, 2021: All district-owned or district-instrumentally owned buildings with at least 10,000 square feet
- January 1, 2023: Privately owned buildings with at least 25,000 square feet
- January 1, 2026: Privately owned buildings with at least 10,000 square feet
What are the potential penalties associated with the Building Energy Performance Standard program?
Buildings that don’t comply by the end of the 5-year compliance period have to pay an alternative compliance penalty established by DOEE. The penalty will be deposited into the Sustainability Energy Trust Fund.
DOEE can also improve civil infraction penalties, fines and fees as sanctions for any violations. Civil action can be taken to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to collect damages, cost recovery, reasonable attorney and expert witness fees and injunctive or other appropriate relief to enforce compliance.
Exemptions are available for buildings that experience financial distress, change in ownership, vacancy, major renovation or pending demolition. The exemptions delay compliance requirements by up to 3 years.
Visit the DOEE’s Building Energy Performance Standard page for more information.
3. New York City Emission Reporting Mandates
Local Law 97 of 2019 marked New York City’s commitment to making its buildings more sustainable. It aims to reduce GHG emissions from covered buildings by 40% by 2030 and lower citywide emissions by 80% by 2050.
Annual GHG emissions report requirements are in development. Building owners should review greenhouse gas emissions results according to their ESPM tool. Intensity limits will decrease every five years until 2050.
Who is required to comply with Local Law 97?
Covered buildings include:
- All commercial buildings and multifamily units larger than 25,000 square feet
- Two or more buildings sharing a tax lot that exceed 50,000 gross square feet when combined
- Two or more buildings in the same condominium form of ownership that are governed by the same board of managers and exceed 50,000 square feet when combined.
When do emission reports for Local Law 97 start?
- The law will take effect on January 1st, 2024.
- Building owners must file annual greenhouse gas emissions reports for the previous calendar year starting on May 1, 2025, and every year thereafter.
What are the potential penalties associated with Local Law 97?
Starting in 2025, the penalties are as follows:
- Non-compliance: a maximum of $268 per ton of CO2 in excess of the limit.
- Failure to report emissions: a fine of $0.50 per square foot.
- False statement: a fine of no more than $500,000 and/or a prison term of no more than 30 days.
Buildings that meet any of the following criteria qualify for exemption:
- Electric power or steam facilities
- Shared property with no more than three stories, where each unit owner is responsible for their own HVAC and hot water heating systems and no one system serves more than 25,000 gross square feet
- City buildings
- Housing development or building on land owned by the New York City housing authority
- Rent regulated accommodations
- Buildings that are classified as group A-3 religious facilities
- Property owned by a housing development fund company
- Project-based federal housing
Affordable housing is not exempt.
What are the incentives for businesses to comply with Local Law 97?
New York City does not offer any incentives through this bill but encourages organizations to pursue incentives available through other programs. Outreach will eventually include a list of all city, state, federal, private and utility incentive programs currently available.
For more information about building emissions limits under Local Law 97, visit NYC’s greenhouse gas emission reporting page.
4. Colorado Emission Reporting Mandates
Colorado’s HOUSE BILL 21-1286 requires owners of certain large buildings to report energy-usage benchmarking data to the Colorado energy office annually.
The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% by 2026 compared to 2021 levels, and 20% by 2030 compared to 2021 levels.
When putting covered buildings up for lease or sale, the owner must provide an electronic copy of the previous year’s benchmarking data.
Who is required to comply with Colorado HB21-1286?
The mandate defines a covered building as any building with a gross floor area of at least 50,000 square feet that is occupied by a single occupant or group of tenants.
This doesn’t include storage facilities, parking garages or airplane hangers without heating and cooling.
Buildings with over half of the square footage used for manufacturing, industrial, or agricultural purposes or single-family homes, duplexes or triplexes are also excluded.
|Buildings >50,000 square feet occupied by a single occupant or group of tenants||Storage facilities, parking garages and airplane hangers without heating and cooling|
|Buildings with >50% of space used for manufacturing, industrial or agricultural purposes|
|Single-family homes, duplexes and triplexes|
When do emission reports for Colorado HB21-1286 start?
HB21-1286 emission reporting requirements began on December 1, 2022.
Future reporting deadlines will fall on June 1 of each year, starting in 2023.
What are the potential penalties associated with Colorado HB21-1286?
Owners of covered buildings must pay an annual fee of $100 per building to the Colorado Efficiency Office.
Owners who violate the benchmarking requirements are subject to penalties of up to $500 for a first-time violation and up to $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
Public buildings are excluded from both the annual fee and violator penalties. All penalties collected are credited to the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.
Covered buildings that go unoccupied for a certain period of time, have a demolition permit issued or meet conditions for financial hardship can request a waiver to be exempt. Time extensions are available for owners who cannot complete benchmarking reports due to the utility provider or customer’s failure to provide usage information
For a more comprehensive view, check out the full HB21-1286 text.
5. California emission reporting and efficiency mandates
The California Energy Commission (CEC)’s statewide 2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code) update follows 48 California cities and counties that have adopted local energy codes that transition new homes and buildings away from using fossil fuels.
The new state building code sets minimum efficiency standards for walls, windows and heating/cooling equipment.
The update with the greatest impact is the shift to electric heat pump space and water heating, which will save at least three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the most efficient traditional gas furnaces.
Who is required to comply with California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code)?
The code targets new construction and will be updated every three years.
When do emission reports for California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code) start?
As of January 1st, 2023, new buildings are required to reduce energy and carbon pollution.
What are the potential penalties associated with California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code)?
The CEC’s new code isn’t necessarily a mandate– it focuses on encouraging the solutions with the lowest energy costs and carbon emissions while discouraging the continued use of GHG for heating and hot water.
It works by distributing compliance credits and penalties based on a building’s energy efficiency and carbon emissions. Buildings that opt for high-efficiency electric water heaters over gas can avoid other expensive updates listed in the current code, while still cutting carbon emissions and utility costs.
On the flip side, buildings that use gas for hot water and heating are required to offset through other energy efficiency measures, like better insulation and windows, for example.
This method creates financial incentives to transition off fossil fuels while leaving room for flexible implementation.
You can find more information about California’s Energy Code here.
6. Philadelphia Emission Reporting Mandates
The Building Energy Performance Program is expected to cut carbon pollution in Philadelphia by nearly 200,000 metric tons– a feat equivalent to taking 40,000 automobiles off the roads.
Building owners have to comply with benchmarking requirements, even if tenants do not report the necessary information– they just won’t be responsible for usage information not lawfully available to them.
Characteristics and attributes that must be reported include the building’s physical address, year built, use/uses, gross floor area, operating hours and– if applicable– use-specific information such as the percent of the building area heated and air-conditioned, number of computers, uninterruptible power supply usage and characteristics and number of refrigerator/freezer units.
Who is required to comply with the Philadelphia Building Energy Performance Program?
Buildings with indoor floor space of at least 50,000 square feet and any building participating in the Commercial Property Assesses Clean Energy (C-pace) program must adhere to these benchmarking requirements.
When do emission reports for the Philadelphia Building Energy Performance Program start?
phila.gov BEPP page or by reading the regulations in full.
7. Boston Emission Reporting Mandates
Boston businesses must comply with emissions reporting mandates at the state and local levels:
310 CMR 7.71: Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting
To preserve clean air for Massachusetts residents, workers and visitors, the state requires certain facilities to report and limit emissions to control air pollution at its origin.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting regulations were last amended in November of 2022. All facilities regulated under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act and Appendix C of 310 CMR 7.00: Air Pollution Control, as well as any facility emitting more than 5,000 short tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year are required to report under 310 CMR 7.71.
Reportable emissions include:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Nitrous oxide (N2O)
- Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
Special requirements were created for retail sellers of electricity.
Learn more about the MassDEP Source Registration and Greenhouse Gas Reporting on Mass.gov.
Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO).
Boston also has its own reporting requirements via the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO).
Who is required to comply with BERDO?
Berdo applies to non-residential buildings of at least 20,000 square feet, residential buildings that have 15 or more units and any parcel with multiple buildings that sum to at least 20,000 square feet and 15 units.
When do carbon intensity limits for BERDO start?
Carbon intensity limits for buildings with greater than 35,000 square feet or 35 residential units will take effect in 2025.
Carbon intensity limits will take effect in 2030 for all buildings between 20,000 square feet and 35,000 square feet, or between 15 and 35 residential units.
Both building categories are already required to report annual emissions.
|>35,000 square foot buildings||20,000-35,000 square foot buildings/ buildings with 15-35 residential units|
What are the potential penalties associated with BERDO?
- Buildings with >35,000 square feet: $300 per day for failure to report and $1000 per day for failure to comply with emission standards.
- Buildings with 25,000 - 34,999 square feet: $150 per day for failure to report / $300 per day for failure to comply with emission standards.
How to stay ahead of emissions reporting mandates
We’ve covered quite a bit of information in this post, but this is just a start. New emissions reporting mandates are still in the works, and existing mandates will evolve. If your business doesn’t have to comply now, it probably will in the near future.
“What gets measured gets managed; and right now, without reliable product-level emissions data, we face major constraints to effectively mitigate emissions across products’ life cycle,” says C2ES Industrial Fellow Chris Kardish.
Proactively track emissions now to safeguard future compliance and avoid potential penalties, no matter what reporting mandates come your way over the next few years. Brightly’s Energy and sustainability services help companies track energy usage and carbon emissions data to stay compliant with emerging government mandates as well as reducing their carbon footprint.