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S02E07: EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations

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cross-posted from Main Street Insider

This week, we explore how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG’s) after a 2007 Supreme Court ruling declared that GHG’s meet the standard of an air pollutant. These new regulations take effect over three phases, the first of which is currently taking place.

More below the fold…

90 Second Summaries: Season 2, Episode 7

EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Final Rule Released 5/13/10

Status: Regulations took effect on January 2nd, 2011. The EPA currently has the responsibility to issue permits and enforce emissions standards for stationary power plants, large factories and other industrial facilities. However, a complex web of legal challenges being pursued by opposed states and business interests will take years to fully resolve. In addition, most congressional Republicans seek to deny the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions outright.

Purpose: In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases (GHGs) meet the standard of an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and are thus subject to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA announced preliminary steps towards GHG regulation in July 2008, and followed up in December 2009 by issuing an endangerment finding that declared the “concentrations of the six major greenhouse gases…in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”

The release of that endangerment finding was widely seen as a clear signal by the Obama Administration that measures to reduce GHG emissions would proceed, with or without the support of Congress. As it became clear that comprehensive climate change legislation would fail to emerge in the 111th Congress, the EPA solidified plans over the course of 2010 to implement emissions standards on selected large stationary sources.

Summary: The regulations, despite exempting all but the largest power plants and industrial facilities, will cover roughly 70% of all emissions from stationary sources once fully in place. Some types of emissions, most notably biomass-generated sources, are exempted at least temporarily.

In order provide a relatively smooth and gradual transition process, the GHG rule takes effect in three phases:

1. Through July 1, 2011, permitting for GHG emissions will be required only for new or upgraded stationary emissions sources with the potential to release over 75,000 tons per year of CO2e* that are already subject to permitting regulations for pollutants other than GHG.

2. Starting July 1, 2011, all sources with over 100,000 tons per year of CO2e will require permits, even if not subject to other emission regulations. This is estimated to impact about 550 sources immediately, and 900/year thereafter.

3. By June 30, 2012, EPA will release an additional rule examining possibilities for further implementation and to streamline the regulatory process. By 2016, it will determine if sources under 50,000 tons/year require permitting.

The responsibility to issue permits falls to the states, who have been intensively consulted in the process of developing the rule and had to submit verification that they were prepared for the new process. Only Texas has remained a vocal holdout against compliance, although Wyoming recently joined a lawsuit under its new Republican governor.

*CO2e is the abbreviation for “carbon dioxide equivalent”, the international standard used to measure impact across a range of greenhouse gases.

Supporters: Obama Administration, most Democrats, some state/regional governments, environmental organizations, etc.

• Supporters, many of whom view preventing climate change as the moral imperative of our age, are determined to press ahead with measures to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. They generally see EPA regulation as a suboptimal but necessary alternative to comprehensive climate legislation.

Opponents: Republicans and some rural Democrats, conservative think tanks and Tea Party organizations, etc.

• Opponents are fundamentally pitted against any environmental regulations that may drive up business costs and energy prices. They see EPA intervention in the affairs of private sector industry as blatantly unconstitutional, despite repeated Supreme Court rulings to the contrary.

Further links

EPA Final GHG Tailoring Rule: http://www.epa.gov/NSR/documents/20100413fs.pdf

Boston Globe Article on 2007 Supreme Court Decision: http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2007/04/02/epa/

EPA Endangerment Finding: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

CRS Report on Congressional options to respond to EPA action: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41212.pdf

Competitive Enterprise Institute blog post on its lawsuit: http://www.globalwarming.org/2011/03/13/update-on-cei%E2%80%99s-lawsuit-against-the-epa-over-climate-regulations/