EPA Moves to Regulate Greenhouse Gases

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a significant step to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson yesterday announced a proposal requiring large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions. The proposal would allow the Obama administration to begin addressing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide, regardless of whether or not Congress passes climate change legislation.

These permits would require the use of "best available control technologies" and energy efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

“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,” Jackson said. “This is a common sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources–those from sectors responsible for nearly 70% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources. This rule allows us to do what the Clean Air Act does best–reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future.”

These large facilities would include power plants, refineries, and factories. Small businesses such as farms and restaurants, and many other types of small facilities, would not be included in these requirements, EPA said.

If the proposed fuel-economy rule to regulate GHGs from cars and trucks is finalized and takes effect in the spring of 2010, Clean Air Act permits would automatically be required for stationary sources emitting GHGs.

With the proposed emissions thresholds, EPA estimates that 400 new sources and modifications to existing sources would be subject to review each year for GHG emissions. In total, approximately 14,000 large sources would need to obtain operating permits that include GHG emissions. Most of these sources are already subject to clean air permitting requirements because they emit other pollutants.

The proposed tailoring rule addresses a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

In addition, EPA is requesting public comment on its previous interpretation of when certain pollutants, including CO2 and other GHGs, would be covered under the permitting provisions of the Clean Air Act. A different interpretation could mean that large facilities would need to obtain permits prior to the finalization of a rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions, EPA said.

Last week, EPA finalized new reporting requirements for the nation’s biggest sources of GHGs.

Read New York Times coverage at the link below.

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