October 1, 2009

EPA Proposes Regulations For Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A new Environmental Protection Agency proposal announced Wednesday would require power plants, factories and refineries to reduce greenhouse gases by installing the best available technology and improve energy efficiency whenever a facility is significantly changed or built, The Associated Press reported.

The proposal applies to any industrial plant that emits at least 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year.

EPA officials say these large sources are responsible for 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions "” mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels "” that are released in the U.S.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that by using the power and authority of the Clean Air Act, they could 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 the U.S. economy.

"We know the corner coffee shop is no place to look for meaningful carbon reductions," she added.

The Obama administration announced earlier this year it would start developing the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks. The EPA said those regulations, which would take effect in 2010, would also compel the agency to control greenhouse gases from large smokestacks.

But many industry groups questioned the agency's proposal.

They argued that since the Clean Air Act typically covers any facility releasing more than 250 tons a year of a recognized pollutant, the EPA was skirting the law since that threshold would require more facilities to fall under the new regulations.

Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, said the proposal incorrectly assumes that one industry's greenhouse gas emissions are worse than another's.

"The agency was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," said Jeff Holmstead, a former top EPA air pollution official who is now a lobbyist for the energy industry.

Holmstead said it normally takes an act of Congress to change the words of a statute enacted by Congress.

"Many of us are very curious to see the EPA's legal justification for today's proposal."

Meanwhile, Jackson argued that the rule was legally defensible, adding that the EPA would not propose a rule that it didn't believe made good legal sense.

Senate Democrats recently unveiled legislation that would set limits on the amount of greenhouse gases from large industrial sources. The Senate bill, unlike the House-passed version, preserves the EPA's authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act.

Environmentalists are arguing that the two efforts go hand-in-hand.

Emily Figdor, director of the global warming program at Environment America, an advocacy group, said we couldn't have one without the other if we're going to be successful in moving America to clean energy.

Such a move would likely spark increased pressure on Congress to pass a bill to avoid what Republicans said would be less flexible and more costly regulations. Supporters of the legislation have already used pending EPA rules as leverage to get Congress to act.

Senate Republicans, like Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, have already attempted to block the EPA from issuing regulations to buy more time for Congress to work on a bill.


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