The EPA began finalizing a timeline for greenhouse gas regulations today, starting with the formal determination that no power plants, industrial facilities or other stationary sources will be federally regulated for greenhouse gases before January 2011.
It’s the start of a series of official measures related to greenhouse gas regulations expected this spring. Those include EPA’s vehicle emissions standards, which could be finalized later this week; a determination on the size of industries that would be subject to greenhouse gas regulations; and a rule that could add the oil and gas industries to the 31 industries already required to report their greenhouse gas emissions.
To get the ball rolling, EPA did two things today.
First, it affirmed part of a rule that Bush EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issued in December 2008, shortly before leaving office. Johnson had ruled that new power plant and industrial facilities and those planning to expand were not required to get Clean Air Act Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits for any pollutant or greenhouse gas until that pollutant was officially regulated by the EPA. If EPA only monitored the pollutant, that didn’t count, according to Johnson’s ruling, and the Obama EPA agreed.
Second, it clarified that any PSD permit requirements — including for greenhouse gases — would start when a nationwide rule for regulation takes effect:
“For GHGs, ‘takes effect’ means when the first national rule regulating controlling GHGs takes effect. If finalized as proposed, the rule limiting GHG emissions for cars and light trucks would trigger these requirements in January 2011.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reiterated today that she plans to issue that final vehicle emissions standard soon — possibly this week.
The vehicle standards began with an agreement last spring between President Obama and the auto industry, which wants to avoid the patchwork of state standards that would result if California and other states set their own rules. The EPA’s endangerment finding in December — which included the determination that emissions from motor vehicles contribute to greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere and, thus, climate change — set the legal groundwork for action.
Jackson also repeated her commitment to focus greenhouse gas regulations on only the largest emitters in an effort to protect the donut shops and other small businesses that opponents say couldn’t afford regulations. The agency will set the threshold, initially discussed at 25,000 tons a year and now likely to be higher, later this spring.
“EPA’s approach gives businesses the time they need to innovate, governments the time to prepare to cut greenhouse gases, and it ensures that we don’t push this problem off to our children and grandchildren,” Jackson said today.
The EPA administrator has been discussing the 2011 delay and protective measures to ease the impact of greenhouse gas regulations for weeks, but it hasn’t stopped the pushback from Congress.
As of today, 43 senators and 193 House members (including 33 Democrats) have signed on to at least one of nine bills attempting to block the EPA, according to the environmental group 1Sky:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have launched four different resolutions intended to have Congress override the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act by disapproving the endangerment finding: SJR 26, HJR 66, HJR 76 and HJR 77.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) launched bills in their respective chambers proposing a less enduring plan that would instead delay EPA action on greenhouse gases other than vehicle emissions for two years: S 3072 and HR 4753
Other bills by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Skelton, Emerson and Peterson — HR 391, HR 4396 and HR 4572 — would amend the Clean Air Act so the term “air pollutant” does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons or sulfur hexafluoride. Blackburn’s would add that “Nothing in the Clean Air Act shall be treated as authorizing or requiring the regulation of climate change or global warming,” and Peterson’s would forbid the EPA from considering indirect land use changes when calculating the lifecycle emissions of biofuels.
Meanwhile, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) are still working out the kinks in their compromise climate and energy bill — a bill that is expected to pre-empt the EPA on greenhouse gas regulation just as the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill would.
“Anybody that produces carbon, from a small farmer to a church, is potentially affected,” Graham declared at a speech in South Carolina today. “And I believe the way to regulate carbon — and it should be regulated by the way — is through Congress, not through the EPA.”