Nitrous oxide emissions are a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in the United States, amounting to approximately 5 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions on an annual basis. One source category, agricultural soil management, accounts for nearly three quarters of those emissions. To date, there have been few or no significant legal controls applied to regulate nitrous oxide pollution resulting from agricultural soil management in the United States.
Implementing nitrous oxide management standards requires two distinct steps: (1) articulating the substance of such standards, and (2) identifying effective regulatory techniques for putting the standards into action. Nitrous oxide emissions are particularly well-suited to sub-national management standards at the state level. This model legislation establishes a framework for state-level implementation vs. local-level implementation, in light of the wide variety of approaches states take to home rule and municipal authority, and is derived primarily from provisions of New Mexico’s Healthy Soil Act.
The decision to focus the model legislation on state management standards is not meant to suggest that a state-level approach would prove most effective at reducing nitrous oxide emissions. In fact, both federal and local efforts to reduce nitrous oxide emissions through improved agricultural management practices would borrow heavily from the substantive principles and regulatory techniques described in the model legislation. Readers should see also our LPDD draft EPA regulation on N2O management from large commercial farms, adopting a federal approach to this issue, and our LPDD analysis of how states can legislatively adopt the Climate Action Reserve’s framework, which implements cropland nitrogen management best practices.
These important contributions to the LPDD implementation project were drafted principally by Lindsay Brewer and Kevin Poloncarz, with assistance from Steven Palmer and Jasmine Jennings, all of Covington and Burling, LLP. Peer reviewing was provided by Jessica Wentz, Senior Fellow and Associate Research Scholar, Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, and David Kanter, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, New York University, and Vice Chair, International Nitrogen Initiative, who were also the LPDD chapter’s co-authors.