US process industry warns against emissions plan

02 December 2008 22:26  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US process industry warned on Tuesday that regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) by environmental officials would impose crushing costs on business but would have no impact on global atmosphere.


The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said that proposed regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would “impose enormous costs on US industry and further damage the nation’s distressed economy, costs that would be out of proportion to any potential benefit gained”.


The association was responding to an invitation issued by EPA in July this year for public comment on the agency’s plans to use its authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to impose limits and other controls on countrywide emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.


The agency’s plans to regulate emissions were triggered by an April 2007 ruling by the US Supreme Court. 


In Massachusetts v. The Environmental Protection Agency, the high court found in favour of the Massachusetts state government and environmental groups who argued that the agency has the authority - and an obligation - to regulate automotive engine emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.


However, the Supreme Court ruling did not limit EPA authority to automotive emissions but included “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical … substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air”, as the CAA language provides.


US chemical and refining firms, along with other industries and commercial interests, oppose EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under the CAA, arguing that such a critical undertaking should be addressed not by administrators but by the country’s elected representatives in Congress.


Democrat leaders in the new 111th Congress set to convene in January plan legislation to impose a cap-and-trade emissions controls system in the US, but environmentalists want the EPA to proceed separately.


“The regulation of GHGs [greenhouse gases] under the CAA would constitute EPA’s single largest and potentially most complex assertion of authority over the US economy and Americans’ lifestyles,” NPRA said in its formal comments to the agency.


The association noted that many other agencies in the federal government - including the Departments of Energy and Agriculture and the Small Business Administration - oppose EPA emissions action under the Clean Air Act.


“At best, regulating GHGs under the CAA would not meaningfully reduce ambient GHG concentrations and thus likely would have no impact on the global issue,” NPRA argued.


Instead, the refiners and petchem representatives said, EPA regulation of greenhouse gases “would impose severe costs on domestic industry, reduce our domestic energy security and damage the national economy as businesses shift activities overseas to areas where they will not be subject to futile regulation”.


The EPA is not expected to take any action on regulating greenhouse gases before President George Bush leaves office on 20 January, but the administration of President-elect Barack Obama - who strongly backs emissions controls - is likely to move on the issue next year.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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