Wednesday, August 3, 2011

EPA Proposes Standards for the Airline Industry

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards for engines used in large commercial aircraft. In addition to being a global warming causing greenhouse gas (GHG), NOx emissions are known to cause and aggravate lung diseases and increase susceptibility to respiratory infection.

The proposed standards came shortly after the courts upheld the EPA's responsibility to regulate carbon emissions from aviation. As reported in Courthouse News, early in July, a US District Court judge denied a motion to dismiss claims that the EPA had failed to investigate aircraft engine emissions. He said that the agency had ignored “a required component of the regulatory process.”

The legal challenge was issued by Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity who want to compel the EPA to formally determine whether greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft endangers human health and welfare. The judgement also opens the door to US federal regulation of GHGs from aviation.
“We are happy with today’s order. The court has made clear that the EPA has a mandatory obligation to conduct an endangerment finding for aviation emissions,” said Sarah Burt, an Earthjustice attorney. “We will continue to work to compel the EPA to act as soon as possible on marine and nonroad sources of pollution as well as aircraft emissions.”

In response to the District Court decision, the EPA has proposed adopting the NOx emission standards approved by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). According to the EPA the proposal would reduce ground-level NOx emissions by about 100,000 tons nationwide by 2030.

There would be two tiers, referred to as Tier 6 (or CAEP/6) standards and Tier 8 (or CAEP/8) standards. Tier 6 would apply to all new engines starting in 2013, and Tier 8 would apply starting in 2014.

The EPA is also proposing requiring all gas turbine and turboprop engine manufacturers report emissions data to the agency, for the purpose of conducting emission analyses and developing aviation policy.

The EPA's proposed aviation standards are particularly timely in light of American commericial aviation's legal challenge to the EU's plans requiring all airlines to participate in a continent wide emissions trading system. EPA standards in the US make an important statement as American  companies challenge Europe's right to protect the environment.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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