As America prepares its fight against global warming, a Hixson environmental engineering firm could play a key role in ensuring it is a fair battle.
Advanced Waste Management Systems (AWMS) Inc., a 15-employee company that already certifies health and environmental standards for companies around the world, is one of the first U.S. companies certified by The Climate Registry to audit and verify claims about greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists believe greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide contribute to global warming. Congress is expected this year to begin to limit carbon emissions for the first time in the United States.
On Tuesday, Rob Ellis, the company's manager for greenhouse gas verification, will testify before a congressional committee looking into how the United States can best measure and limit greenhouse gases.
"We're giving the subcommittee the soup to nuts on how verification happens and what it took for us to become accredited to do this work," Mr. Ellis said. "It's a very intensive process to ensure that the review is independent and the claims are accurate within 5 percent, plus or minus."
The independent review of carbon emission reports is critical to allow an effective trading system to spur the market to limit greenhouse gases, Mr. Ellis said.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson recently said she may propose a "cap and trade" system to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Under a cap and trade system, EPA or Congress would set an annual cap on overall carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and then let the marketplace decide how the reductions needed to meet that target occur.
Advanced Waste Management, which former TVA engineer Dr. Rick Ellis founded in 1985, became one of the first companies certified in Europe to verify company claims about carbon emissions when it opened a subsidiary verification company in Bucharest, Romania, in 2002.
"Right now, there are only six companies certified to do the verification for more than 100 companies that have voluntarily signed up for The Climate Registry," Dr. Ellis said.
Under a cap and trade system, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would be given a value at the Chicago Climate Exchange, which operates similar to other commodity trading. Utilities and industry would be encouraged to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions based upon the market value of such carbon credits.
"Given the value of greenhouse gas reduction claims, the opportunity for fraud is huge so we need to have a means of verifying the reductions," Dr. Ellis said.
So far, only one company - Grand Targhee Ski Resort near Jackson Hole, Wyo., - has been verified for its carbon emissions and that was done by AWMS. Mr. Ellis said his company is now working to verify greenhouse emissions for a major Midwest utility, Great River Energy.