United States: Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under The Direction of the EPA

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In the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency – the EPA – is authorised to regulate GHG emissions in the absence of a federal law. Two legal platforms provide a framework for its action:

  • the Clean Air Act, a federal law dating from 1963 which establishes the regulatory framework for air pollutants from mobile (vehicles) and stationary (industrial installations) sources;
  • a decision taken by the Supreme Court in 2007, which affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions from motor vehicles as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Because EPA is regulating GHGs as pollutants under the transportation emissions section of the Clean Air Act, the Agency is required to include GHG emissions in the permitting process for stationary sources, including utilities. Thus, a large number of stationary sources will be required to obtain GHG emissions permits, both pre-construction permits - New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration (NSR/PSD) - and operating permits - Title V- , beginning on January 2nd 2011.

In May 2010, EPA finalized the GHG Tailoring Rule, which “tailors” the requirements of these CAA permitting programs to limit which facilities will be required to obtain NSR and title V permits. Facilities responsible for nearly 70 percent of the national GHG emissions from stationary sources will be subject to permitting requirements under this rule. This includes the nation’s largest GHG emitters—power plants, refineries, and cement production facilities.

The next step will consist in setting an emission target for those installations. It seems likely that the EPA will rely on performance standards in order to do so. The advantage of this approach is that it is based on an assessment of environmental and economic performance. Using this type of standard can therefore result in introducing a federal emission trading scheme for one or several sectors and applying more effective technology to the other sectors in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the actions taken by the EPA may still be blocked by Congress and in the courts. If an energy bill is passed, Congress may pre-empt all or part of the EPA’s powers to regulate GHG emissions. The federal agency is also facing uncertainty, as a result of the large number of lawsuits filed against its actions since 2007.

Measures | Analysis
Winter 2010
United States

Site Entry Created by J A Kelly on Dec 06, 2010

Reference This Source

Policymeasures.com (2019). United States: Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under The Direction of the EPA. Available:
www.policymeasures.com/resources/detail/united-states-regulating-greenhouse-gases-under-the-direction-of-the-e Last accessed: 26th March 2019

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