Monday, January 03, 2011

EPA Launches GHG Rules & Sets Schedule For Actions

Jan 2: Beginning January 2, 2011, industries that are large emitters of GHGs, and are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones, must obtain air permits and implement energy efficiency measures or, where available, cost-effective technology to reduce their GHGs emissions. EPA indicated that the requirements include only the nation's largest GHG emitters, such as power plants, refineries and cement production facilities. Emissions from small sources, such as farms and restaurants are not covered by these GHG permitting requirements [See WIMS 9/16/10 & WIMS 5/14/10].
    The State of Texas, the only state in the country, received a last minute stay of the rules from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. The appeals court ordered EPA to respond to the Texas motion by January 6. On December 23, EPA issued its plan for establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards under the Clean Air Act in 2011. The Agency said it 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, which they say represents nearly 40 percent of the GHG pollution in the United States.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change. These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home."

    Several states, local governments and environmental organizations sued EPA over the Agency's failure to update the pollution standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries. Under the settlement agreement, EPA said it 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 said the schedule will allow the Agency "to host listening sessions with the business community, states and other stakeholders in early 2011, well before the rulemaking process begins, as well as to solicit additional feedback during the routine notice and comment period. Together this feedback will lead to smart, cost-effective and protective standards that reflect the latest and best information." (See link to settlement details below).
    Also on December 23, EPA announced the issuance of a final series of actions to ensure that the largest industrial facilities can obtain Clean Air Act permits that cover greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beginning in January 2011. The actions are part of the highly controversial regulations that EPA calls a "common sense approach to GHG permitting outlined in the spring 2010 tailoring rule."

    The first set of actions are designed to give EPA authority to permit GHGs in seven states (AZ, AR, FL, ID, KS, OR, and WY) until the state or local agencies can revise their permitting regulations to cover these emissions. Secondly, EPA took additional steps to disapprove part of Texas' Clean Air Act permitting program and the Agency will also issue GHG permits to facilities in the state. EPA said the actions would ensure that large industrial facilities will be able to receive permits for greenhouse gas emissions regardless of where they are located.

    In the second set of actions, EPA issued final rules to ensure that there are no Federal laws in place that require any state to issue a permit for GHG emissions below levels outlined in the tailoring rule. EPA indicated it has worked closely with the states to ensure that the transition to permitting for GHGs is smooth. EPA said, "States are best suited to issue permits to sources of GHG emissions and have experience working with industrial facilities. EPA will continue to work with states to help develop, submit, and obtain approval of the necessary revisions to enable the affected states to issue air permits to GHG-emitting sources. 
    On December 17, 2010, EPA issued three concurrent actions related to certain data elements reported under EPA's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP). EPA needs to further examine the likely business impact from the disclosure of certain data elements before those data elements are collected and potentially subject to public availability. EPA is therefore taking these three actions to defer reporting of these data elements while EPA obtains and reviews additional information to resolve issues related to reporting and public availability of these data elements. On December 20, EPA issued a release on the proposed actions
indicating that the total emissions for each facility is still required to be reported to EPA and released to the public.
    The three actions included: (1) A proposal to defer reporting of data elements that are inputs to emission equations for calendar years 2010, 2011, and 2012 until March 31, 2014. The public has 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register to submit comments on the proposed deferral, or 45 days if a hearing is requested. (2) An interim final rule amendment that defers reporting of data elements that are inputs to emission equations for calendar year 2010 until August 31, 2011. The interim final rule is in effect upon publication in the Federal Register. This interim final rule does not defer the reporting date for any other Part 98 data elements. (3) A notice requesting information and comment to assist in evaluating issues related to reporting and public availability of inputs to emission equations. The public has 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register to submit comments and requested information.
    On December 23, the American Petroleum Institute (API) issued two releases about EPA's actions. In one release API said EPA should finalize the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that remain under development prior to setting new greenhouse gas standards. They said, "It is important that EPA conclude the current revisions to the New Source Performance Standards before moving forward with greenhouse gas standards." In a second release API said that EPA's plans to issue Federal Implementation Plans as part of its upcoming regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources was "unprecedented and coercive." API said, "In unprecedented fashion, EPA is now coercing some states to relinquish their authority and is directly usurping state regulatory authority in Texas. . . EPA is cramming too much in too short of a time. The administration's focus should be job creation and economic recovery, not unnecessary and burdensome regulations that will threaten jobs and create a drag on business efforts to invest, expand and put people back to work. . ."
    API said that, "Any New Source Performance Standard must be cost effective and achievable so refineries can continue to make the changes necessary to meet the nation's energy needs. The Clean Air Act was never intended to be used to regulate stationary source greenhouse gas emissions. Elected members of Congress should chart U.S. climate change policy. API hopes that EPA will reconsider using NSPS to set greenhouse gas emissions standards and is concerned that such standards will hurt businesses' ability to create jobs and spur economic growth."
    The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), issued a statement saying, "EPA's proposals would carry tremendous costs but no benefits for the American people -- all pain and no gain. Regulations can't create technology that doesn't exist or change the laws of physics and economics, so the only way to comply with EPA's proposals would be to inflict massive increases in energy costs and massive increases in unemployment on families across our nation. This is exactly the opposite of what President Obama rightly called for when he said economic recovery and job creation should be our nation's top priorities. Exporting American industries, jobs, cash and prosperity to other nations -- and then importing greenhouse gases and manufactured goods from those countries -- makes no sense environmentally or economically. It's the wrong action at the wrong time, as our nation struggles to recover from high unemployment and a devastating recession."
    Numerous environmental organizations issued releases praising EPA's actions. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC said, "By setting timetables for issuing standards to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants and oil refineries, EPA is doing precisely what is needed to protect our health and welfare and provide businesses certainty at a time when some would prefer to roll back the clock. The EPA's forthcoming standards will be based on available and affordable measures to clean up the two industries responsible for the most pollution that drives climate change. Clear pollution control standards also will help these industries plan future investments, fuel the economic recovery, and create jobs."
    The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "Power plants are one of the largest sources of air pollution in America, but the solutions are at hand to create cleaner, healthier air while also building a stronger clean energy economy. EPA's commitment to address the dangerous, climate-disrupting pollution from power plants through common sense national standards will provide important environmental protections and will create economic certainty for vibrant new investments. This is a step that will allow us to protect our children's health and our prosperity." 

Earthjustice which represented the EDF and Sierra Club in a 2006 lawsuit challenging EPA's most recent power plant standards and represents Sierra Club, NRDC, and the Environmental Integrity Project in a 2008 lawsuit that led to the latest agreement on the timetable for refinery standards said, "The EPA has a legal duty to respond to the very real dangers of global warming pollution by setting strong limits on carbon pollution from power plants and refineries. These are the nation's biggest industrial sources of global warming pollution and deserve top priority."  
    Access the December 23 EPA release on  the settlement agreement and link to the settlements (click here). Access the December 23 release from EPA (click here). Access the December 20 release from EPA (click here). Access specific information on the three December 17 actions (click here). Access links to complete information on EPA's GHG Tailoring Rule and related information (click here). Access more information on the GHG Reporting Program (click here). Access the two releases from API (click here) & (click here). Access two release from NPRA (click here); and (click here). Access statements from NRDC (click here); EDF (click here); and Earthjustice (click here).