US EPA issues final rule limiting GHG emissions by industry

03 July 2012 19:24  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday issued its final rule mandating limits on emissions of greenhouse gases by chemical plants, refiners, power generators and other major industrial facilities.

The agency’s final rule came just a week after a landmark decision by a US appellate court that rejected challenges to the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases (GHG).

The final rule formally establishes earlier proposed thresholds for GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act and that statute’s permits requirements for new and existing industrial facilities.

Under the law, EPA’s “New Source Review” (NSR) policy requires that construction of new facilities and expansions of or other modifications to existing plants must meet emissions standards to ensure prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) in the environment.

Under its controversial but now court-sanctioned “endangerment finding” of December 2009, EPA declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cause global warming and consequently threaten public health and must be limited.

In May 2010, the agency issued its equally controversial “tailoring rule” to limit its regulation of GHG emissions only to major facilities, those producing 100,000 tonnes/year of CO2-equivalent.

The Clean Air Act specifies that EPA regulate pollutant emission sources of as little as 100 tonnes/year. 

By its own admission, the EPA said that its regulation of GHG emissions for all sources as defined by the Clean Air Act would have an “absurd result”, requiring millions of entities, including farms, hospitals, universities, schools and even many private homes to obtain emissions permits from the agency.

In its court challenge to the tailoring rule, industry argued that the EPA had no authority under the law to focus enforcement on some of the larger but not all GHG emissions sources.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the EPA’s “endangerment finding” was neither arbitrary nor capricious, and that the agency’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act as it applies to greenhouse gas “is unambiguously correct”.

The court did not rule directly on the challenge to the EPA’s “tailoring rule”, saying that none of the petitioners in the case has standing, meaning none was legally entitled to contest that EPA action.  The “tailoring” issue may be subject to further litigation.

In the meantime, EPA said on Tuesday that it will go forward with its final GHG emissions mandates for industrial facilities, in particular its decision to limit the emissions mandate to larger industrial facilities under its tailoring rule.

The final rule will take effect in about 30 days, and construction of new industrial facilities and major modifications to existing plants will have to be in compliance by 1 July 2013.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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