EPA to Propose Endangerment Finding For Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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By Andrew Childers

Sept. 4 — The Environmental Protection Agency said it will propose an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in late April 2015.

The EPA would be required by the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases from aircraft if it determines the emissions endanger public health or the environment, it said in a Sept. 3 summary.

Finalizing the proposed endangerment finding would take a year, the EPA said.

“This is late, incredibly late, but it's still incredibly good news because EPA realizes it has to act itself,” Vera Pardee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 4. “If it makes a positive endangerment finding, which we completely expect will happen, then it has no choice but to start regulating aircraft emissions independent of and regardless of what the international community does.”

The EPA previously found that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles pose a danger and must be regulated. That decision later led to the EPA's regulating emissions from stationary sources such as power plants as well.

Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity announced plans in August to sue the EPA over its failure to undertake an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in response to their petitions.

Along with its proposed endangerment finding, the EPA said that it will also issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the earliest step in the regulatory process, summarizing international efforts to regulate aircraft emissions. The EPA said it expects the International Civil Aviation Organization will adopt a carbon dioxide standard for aircraft in February 2016.

International Agreement Anticipated

The EPA's move toward regulating aircraft emissions could spur nations to take up an international framework for aviation emissions when a new global climate accord is negotiated in Paris in 2015.

“No one in the international community will want a hodgepodge of regulation,” Pardee said.

She likened the situation to the EPA's decision to allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, which later led to national standards to provide manufacturers with consistency.

The European Union has suspended its emissions trading program for flights to and from non-European Union countries until 2016 in response to opposition from the U.S. The International Civil Aviation Organization is expected to develop an international market-based emissions reduction system for aircraft at its 2016 assembly. Those standards would take effect in 2020.

The EPA said its advance notice of proposed rulemaking, also expected in April 2015, would include a summary of those efforts as well as an overview of how the agency could implement those standards domestically using its authority under Section 231 of the Clean Air Act if it determines those emissions must be regulated.

“We are pleased that the EPA and FAA are actively engaged in the ICAO work to develop a carbon dioxide standard for new type aircraft for approval in 2016, and that the EPA is confirming the schedule to adopt the future international standard into US law,” Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, told Bloomberg BNA in a Sept. 4 e-mail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at achilders@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The EPA's summary is available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/documents/aviation/us-ghg-endangerment-ip-9-3-14.pdf.


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