Thursday, October 01, 2009

EPA Proposes GHG Permits For Large Sources

Sep 30: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced in a keynote address at the California Governor’s Global Climate Summit that the Agency has taken a significant step to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Administrator announced a proposal requiring large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions. EPA is calling the proposed rule the "Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule." The proposed thresholds would “tailor” the permit programs to limit which facilities would be required to obtain NSR and title V permits and would cover nearly 70 percent of the national GHG emissions that come from stationary sources, including those from the nation’s largest emitters -- including power plants, refineries, and cement production facilities. The permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

Administrator Jackson said, “By using the power and authority of the Clean Air Act, we can 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 our economy. This is a common sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources . . . This rule allows us to do what the Clean Air Act does best -- reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future -- all without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.”

The large facilities would include power plants, refineries, and factories. Small businesses such as farms and restaurants, and many other types of small facilities, would not be included in these requirements. EPA said with the proposed emissions thresholds, it estimates that 400 new sources and modifications to existing sources would be subject to review each year for GHG emissions. In total, approximately 14,000 large sources would need to obtain operating permits that include GHG emissions. Most of these sources are already subject to clean air permitting requirements because they emit other pollutants. The proposed rule addresses a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

EPA is proposing carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) as the preferred metric for determining GHG emissions rates for any combination of these six GHGs, but is requesting comment on alternatives. Emissions of greenhouse gases are typically expressed in a common metric, so that their impacts can be directly compared, as some gases are more potent (have a higher global warming potential or GWP) than others. The international standard practice is to express GHGs in CO2e. Emissions of gases other than CO2 are translated into CO2 equivalents by using the gases’ global warming potentials.

In addition, EPA is requesting public comment on its previous interpretation of when certain pollutants, including CO2 and other GHGs, would be covered under the permitting provisions of the Clean Air Act. A different interpretation could mean that large facilities would need to obtain permits prior to the finalization of a rule regulating GHG emissions. EPA will accept comment on these proposals for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Vice President for Energy & Resources Policy Keith McCoy issued a statement saying, "The EPA’s legal authority to exempt small manufacturers and businesses from permits mandated by the Clean Air Act is unclear at best. This new rule is a slippery slope that could lead to costly economy-wide regulation of “stationary sources” such as small factories, hospitals and farms. Congress, not the EPA, is the appropriate authority for amending the Clean Air Act. The NAM opposes use of the Clean Air Act as a means of regulating GHG emissions. Today’s announcement from the EPA sets the stage for regulation of large industrial sources that will add significant costs to manufacturers as they struggle to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. The proposed rule establishes a precedent for economy-wide regulation that will cost jobs and hurt the nation’s economy at the worst possible time."

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the full text of the Administrators (click here). Access a prepublication copy of the 416-page proposed rule (click here). Access a fact sheet on the proposed rule (click here). Access the proposed rules and related information (click here). Access the NAM statement (click here).