EPA may raise GHG control threshold, Jackson says

The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering raising the threshold at which refineries and other large industrial plants would be required to control greenhouse gases (GHGs) beyond the 25,000 tons/year originally proposed.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 23 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering raising the threshold at which refineries and other large industrial plants would be required to control greenhouse gases (GHGs) beyond the 25,000 tons/year originally proposed.

Responding to a Feb. 19 letter from John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) and seven other Senate Democrats, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson did not specify what the new threshold might be. She said she expects EPA to begin regulating GHG emissions at refineries, chemical plants, and other large industrial facilities next year under the Clean Air Act. No regulations are planned for 2010.

“In the first half of 2011, only those facilities that must apply for [CAA] permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions will need to address their [GHG] emissions in their permit applications,” Jackson said, adding that she expects EPA to begin regulating GHGs from other large industrial sites during next year’s final six months.

“Between the latter half of 2011 and 2013, I expect that the threshold for permitting will be substantially higher than the 25,000-ton limit that EPA originally proposed,” Jackson said. “In any event, EPA does not intend to subject the smallest sources to [CAA] permitting for [GHG] emissions any sooner than 2016.”

EPA proposed regulating GHGs under the CAA in response to a 2007 US Supreme Court ruling that GHGs are air pollution and subject to regulation under the CAA if EPA determined that emissions of them endanger public health. The agency issued such a finding on Dec. 7.

The endangerment finding obligates the agency to regulate GHG emissions from motor vehicles, Jackson said. EPA will begin that process in late March when it issues GHG emission standards for 2012-16 model year light-duty vehicles. Simultaneously, the US Department of Transportation will issue a rule raising fuel economy standards for those vehicles.

Senate approval of a resolution by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) expressing disapproval of EPA’s GHG endangerment finding would keep EPA from issuing GHG standards for light-duty vehicles while undoing what Jackson termed “an historic agreement among states, automakers, and other stakeholders” and leave automakers “without the explicit nationwide uniformity” they consider vital to their business, the letter said.

“Moreover, a vote to vitiate the [GHG] endangerment finding would be a vote to reject the work of the 13 US government departments that contribute to the US Global Change Research Program,” it continued. “It also would be viewed by many as a vote to move the United States to a position behind that of China on the issue of climate change, and more in line with that of Saudi Arabia.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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