Pending US greenhouse gas rules seen as costly

16 September 2008 17:35  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Proposed environmental rules could subject some 18,000 US chemical and plastics production facilities to costly new regulations to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), US business leaders warned on Tuesday.


The US Chamber of Commerce said a study it commissioned of the proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that “over one million mid-sized to large commercial buildings in the industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors could potentially become subject to a costly and bureaucratic permitting process” if the agency moves forward with its rulemaking.


In response to an April 2007 ruling by the US Supreme Court - which held that the EPA does have and should exercise its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases - the EPA has issued a proposed rule that could have broad impact on US manufacturing, agriculture and general commerce.


William Kovacs, the chamber vice president for regulatory affairs, said the proposed EPA rule would impose an unacceptable burden on US business in general.


“It’s not just the large manufacturers that would bear the burden of regulation this time,” Kovacs said. “It’s the little guys: the hotel you stayed at this weekend, the bakery where you bought your donuts, the office building you work in, even the church you take your family to on Sunday.”


The EPA’s proposed rule would regulate any stationary facility (as opposed to vehicles) that emits more than 250 tonnes of CO2 per year. 


According to the chamber’s analysis, “this emissions threshold is reached when a business uses about $70,000 [€49,000] of oil or natural gas per year”.


Based on that criteria, said the chamber, “more than one million businesses involved in manufacturing, operating buildings and services and farming could become subject to new EPA regulations, monitoring, controls and enforcement”.


Among those 1m businesses, the chamber said, are more than 9,000 facilities that produce or process plastic resins and nearly 9,000 locations that manufacture or use chemicals.


The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) warned that the proposed EPA greenhouse gases rule “could ultimately cost millions of Americans their jobs by threatening energy supply and saddling domestic manufacturing with higher costs”.


The association also warned that EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases would reduce the global competitiveness of US manufacturers.


“When it comes to establishing procedures for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a matter of getting it right, not simply getting it done,” said Charles Drevna, NPRA president.


The chamber’s Kovacs said that the proposed rulemaking “could ultimately serve as a deterrent to new construction and new business in this country and would be yet another blow to an economy that is already running on fumes”.


The proposed rule is open to public comment until 28 November. The agency will then have about four months to draft a formal regulation. The outcome of that process will depend to a large extent on who occupies the White House beginning in January 2009.


The Chamber of Commerce has appealed for Congress to step in and limit the EPA’s rulemaking authority for greenhouse gases, but with the US national elections looming on 4 November, the legislature is not likely to take up that task.


($1 = €.70)


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By: Joe Kamalick
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