EPA assumes GHG authority in eight states as carbon regulation begins

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 27 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency issued its initial greenhouse gas regulation implementation plans, giving it authority to issue permits in seven states until state and local agencies can revise their regulations. EPA also disapproved Texas’ clean air permitting program and said it will begin to issue GHG permits there.

EPA’s action covered Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, and Washington. In a separate order, it issued final rules to ensure no federal laws are in place requiring any state to issue GHG permits below levels outlined in the tailoring rule, the provision designed to curb carbon emissions from refineries, chemical plants, and other large industrial facilities first.

Oil and gas groups responded critically. “In unprecedented fashion, EPA is now coercing some states to relinquish their authority and is directly usurping state regulatory authority in Texas,” said Howard Feldman, the American Petroleum Institute’s regulatory and scientific affairs director. He noted the agency’s stationary source GHG regulations are to take effect Jan. 2, with court review still pending, and that EPA and state programs are still works in progress. “EPA is cramming too much in too short of a time,” he said.

“EPA’s proposals would carry tremendous costs but no benefits for the American people—all pain and no gain,” declared National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Charles T. Drevna. “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.”

In its announcement, EPA said it has worked closely with states to make sure GHG regulation under the Clean Air Act, which it proposed after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the agency had that authority, goes smoothly. It said it would continue to work with the affected states to enable them to begin issuing GHG permits.

Environmental organizations applauded EPA’s actions. “Carbon pollution poses serious threats to Americans’ health, our economy, and our future. We’re pleased that EPA is working to deliberately bring this dangerous pollution under control, focusing on the biggest polluters first,” Sierra Club President Michael Brune 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,” added David Doniger, policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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