EPA greenhouse gas issues

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EPA greenhouse gas issues is a subsection of the main SourceWatch article Environmental Protection Agency.

Greenhouse gas regulation

EPA declares greenhouse gases a threat to public health and welfare - April 2009

Following from the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling on Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gases if they are a threat to human welfare, EPA conducted a scientific review to determine whether carbon dioxide emissions constitute human endangerment. On April 18, 2009, EPA declared carbon dixodide and five other heat-trapping gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) to be pollutants that threaten public health and welfare. The declaration set into motion a process of regulating carbon dioxide and other gases emitted by coal-fired power plants and synfuels plants.[1][2][3]

EPA finalizes endangerment finding - December 2009

On December 7, 2009, EPA finalized its endangerment finding that greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide are a threat to human health and welfare. The announcement was the final step in the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions if they endanger public health and welfare. The EPA's decision paves the way for new regulation of emissions from power plants, factories, and automobiles. Announced on the first day of international climate talks at COP15 in Copenhagen, the move gives President Obama new regulatory powers that could help gain consensus in efforts to curb global warming. Both Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have said they prefer climate change legislation as a means of regulating global warming pollution, but the finding provides an alternative means of establishing emissions limits if the legislation fails.[4][5]

EPA Waits for 2013 to regulate carbon emissions from 50,000 to 75,000 tons a year - March 2010

On March 3, 2010 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told the Senate Appropriations panel reviewing EPA's budget that the agency would focus on large polluters spewing more than 75,000 tons a year. “It will probably be at least two years before we would look at something like, say, a 50,000 threshold,” Jackson said. The initial phase of greenhouse-gas rules will go into effect in 2011 said Jackson.[6]

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D) of West Virginia on March 4, 2010 introduced legislation that would delay the EPA's carbon rules. The bill calls for a "two-year suspension" that will give Congress “the time it needs to address an issue as complicated and expansive as our energy future." Two House Democrats, West Virginia’s Nick Rahall and Virginia’s Rick Boucher, also introduced legislation that would put EPA's greenhouse gas regulations for so-called “stationary sources” on hold for two years. Rep. Rahall was co-author of the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in June 2009 and would replace EPA direct regulation on carbon emissions.[7]

Fossil fuel companies fight public release of facility GHG emissions

In October 2010, oil producers and refiners, energy companies, and product manufacturers announced their opposition to a proposal by the EPA that would make the amount of greenhouse gas emissions companies release — and the underlying data businesses use to calculate the amounts — available online. While gross estimates exist for such emissions from transportation and electricity production and manufacturing as a whole, the EPA proposal would require companies for the first time to submit information for each individual facility. The companies say that disclosing details beyond a facility's total emissions to the public would reveal company secrets by letting competitors know what happens inside their factories. Suppliers of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), which when burned release greenhouse gases, plus manufacturers of engines and vehicles, and facilities that release 25,000 tons or more of any of six heat-trapping greenhouse gases, would all have to comply with the regulation, the first by the government on pollution linked to global warming.[8]

Dec. 2010: EPA issues plan to regulate power plants and petroleum refineries

On December 23, 2010, the EPA issued its plan for establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards under the Clean Air Act in 2011. The agency looked at a number of sectors and is moving forward on GHG standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries—two of the largest industrial sources, representing nearly 40 percent of the GHG pollution in the United States. Under the plan, EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively. EPA will accept public comment on the plans for 30 days following publication of notice in the Federal Register.[9]

The EPA regulation addresses existing sources, using the statutes of the Clean Air Act's New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to impose limits in 2012 on the amount of CO2 the biggest polluters can emit. The EPA said it would cover 40 percent of U.S. emissions.[10].

The EPA has also been developing a permitting program for new (or substantially upgraded) sources. In May 2010, the EPA issued its "Tailoring Rule," determining which sources will need to get permits (very large sources). In November 2010, it issued "PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases," which detailed that the permitting program would be run much like existing permitting programs: through the states.[11]

The regulations will be applied to plants that were "grandfathered" (exempted) under the original Clean Air Act.[11]

Feb. 2011: House votes to block EPA regulation of GHGs

On Feb. 18, 2011, the Republican-controlled House voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The 249-177 vote added the regulation ban to a spending bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30, 2011. Texas Republican Ted Poe pressed the anti-EPA measure. His Texas district is home to many oil refineries.[12]

March 2011: Inhofe-Upton introduce bill to prevent any federal CO2 regulation

On March 3, 2011, Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, and Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, formally introduced the “Energy Tax Prevention Act,” a bill that they said would reverse the EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are a danger to human health and the environment. According to Inhofe: “The Energy Tax Prevention Act stops cap-and-trade regulations from taking effect once and for all." The bill has 42 co-sponsors in the Senate, all Republicans. In the House, three Democrats joined Upton and his Republican co-sponsors - Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, reportedly to protect key industries in their states – coal, oil and agriculture – that would be affected by greenhouse gas regulations.[13]

The Inhofe-Upton bill allows many Clean Air Act programs to continue, but takes away the agency’s authority to apply the landmark law to carbon dioxide. A deal negotiated with automakers to limit carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks would be allowed to stand through 2016, but no further greenhouse gas emissions rules for vehicles would be permitted. State programs to try to address global warming and carbon emissions would be allowed to continue.[13]

September 2011: Delay announced

On Sep. 14, 2011, the EPA said it will miss an end-of-month target for proposing greenhouse gas regulations for power plants.[14]

March 2012: Rule for new plants

On March 27, 2012, the EPA released its new rule limiting CO2 emissions from future electricity generating plants in the U.S. The EPA is proposing that new plants emit no more than about 454 kilograms of CO2 per megawatt‐hour, and would go into effect in 2013. It would have the biggest impact on coal-fired plants, but would not apply to existing plants or those already under construction. The EPA did leave the door open for companies that want to build new coal plants by allowing utilities to phase-in CO2 controls like carbon capture and storage over decades, as long as the plant's 30-year average of emissions met the new standard.[15]

Science reported that the cap is unlikely to have much impact on current U.S. energy-industry practices, as utilities are favoring new power plants fueled by natural gas: "Nearly all gas-fired power plants built in the U.S. since 2005 would already meet the standard, according to EPA, as would typical gas plants on the drawing boards. So, in practice, analysts say the new standard will probably result in few—if any—immediate changes in how utilities build or operate new power plants." EPA is expected to finalize the rule later in 2012, after a public comment period.[15]

September 2013: revised rule

On Sep 20, 2013, the EPA issued new CO2 rules separating coal and gas regulations. Newly built coal-fired power plants will have to keep carbon emissions below 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour—a level that will force new plants to have carbon capture and storage technology. Newly constructed natural-gas plants will be permitted to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of C02 per megawatt hour - essentially the level at which cleaner burning natural-gas plants currently perform.[16]


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. John M. Broder, "E.P.A. Clears Way for Greenhouse Gas Rules," New York Times, April 17, 2009
  2. "EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Threat to Public Health, Welfare / Proposed Finding Comes in Response to 2007 Supreme Court Ruling," EPA news release, April 17, 2009
  3. "Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act," EPA
  4. "EPA’s Carbon Decision Gives Obama Copenhagen Tool," Bloomberg, December 7, 2009.
  5. "EPA Moves to Regulate CO2 as a Hazard to Health," Time, December 7, 2009.
  6. "EPA Waits for 2013 on Carbon Emissions of 50,000 Tons a Year" Kim Chipman, Bloomberg March 3, 2010.
  7. "Rockefeller Introduces Bill to Delay EPA Carbon Rules" Simon Lomax, Bloomberg March 5, 2010.
  8. Brian Merchant, "Corporations Fight EPA to Keep Emissions Data Secret" TreeHugger, Oct. 29, 2010.
  9. "EPA to Set Modest Pace for Greenhouse Gas Standards / Agency stresses flexibility and public input in developing cost-effective and protective GHG standards for largest emitters" EPA, Dec. 23, 2010.
  10. "EPA Sets Timetable on Carbon-Cutting Regs for Coal and Oil" Stacy Feldman, Reuters, December 23, 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Putting EPA’s announcement on CO2 from power plants in context" Grist, Dec. 23, 2010.
  12. "House Votes To Block EPA From Regulating Greenhouse Gases" AP, Feb. 18, 2011.
  13. 13.0 13.1 John Broder, "Inhofe and Upton: Just Say No to the E.P.A." NY Times, March 3, 2011.
  14. Peter Henderson, "Greenhouse Gas Proposal To Miss Deadline: EPA Chief" World Environment News, Sep. 16, 2011.
  15. 15.0 15.1 David Malakoff, "Imposing a Cap With Holes," Science, March 27, 2012.
  16. Josh Dzieza, "Obama Administration Issues New Rules Capping Carbon Emissions From New Coal Plants," Daily Beast, Sep 20, 2013.

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