Thursday, October 1, 2009

EPA's Proposed Rule to Regulate Emissions

With climate change legislation in limbo in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is acting under The Clean Air Act to curb greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Yesterday the New York Times reported that the EPA has announced a proposed rule to regulate the GHG emissions of big facilities.

On the same day as the EPA announcement, Senators John F. Kerry and Barbara Boxer introduced climate change and energy legislation. While Senate approval is far from certain, the Obama administration has indicated that it intends to move forward on global warming with or without Congressional approval.

The EPA has already announced that it will begin regulating emissions from cars and trucks starting in the Spring of 2010. The government is demonstrating its earnest commitment to controlling the emissions behind climate change.

This proposed rule focuses on the largest facilities which are responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. stationary source greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed regulation defines large facilities as those emitting more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. These large facilities, including power plants, refineries, and factories, are required to secure construction and operating permits.

Many of the 14,000 existing emitters of CO2 are already subject to clean air permitting requirements because they emit other pollutants. At the point of construction or significant modification, operators would be required to demonstrate that they are using the best available technology and efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions. The proposed rule addresses six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

The new rule would exempt virtually all small businesses such as farms and restaurants, and many other types of small facilities.

Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA administrator said, “By using the power and authority of the Clean Air Act, we can begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy. This is a common-sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources — those from sectors responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources.”

Predictably, Republicans in the Senate tried to prevent the EPA from implementing this rule and some industry groups have indicated they are likely to file suit to challenge the agency’s authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

"While the issues are complex and seemingly intractable, there are also many reasons for optimism," said William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "We have made important strides on environmental issues, and we need to keep moving forward with new solutions," he said.

With the uncertainty surrounding the fate of climate change legislation, the EPA may offer the best hope of reigning in US emissions.

Related Articles:
The State of Climate Change Negotiations
Global Cooperation Ahead of COP 15
Climate Change Optimism
Steven Chu: The Fierce Urgency of Now
Action on Climate Change
The Road to Copenhagen (COP 15)
COP 15: Implications for Business
COP 15: Positioning Your Business
Environmental Assessment of President Obama's First 100 Days
Van Jones Succumbs to Republican Pressure
Obama Responds to Republican Lies on Health Care Reform
Green Stimulus Spending and Republican Opposition
What is Wrong with the Right
Green Bubble?

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