The menu of policy options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change is pretty lengthy, and the portions offered are quite substantial. Congress now has to make the choice of which regulatory option to order, and as we saw in last week’s hearings at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, they are open to recommendations. One interaction on Thursday between Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, highlighted the need to pick a single, effective strategy to tackle climate change and not overstuff our economy with duplicative regulations. The exchange focused on whether the EPA should continue to proceed with regulations through the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (NSR) program even if a comprehensive climate change program is enacted.
Given existing requirements, regulation of greenhouse gases under any provisions of the Clean Air Act will trigger NSR. Under NSR rules, the construction of new stationary sources and major modifications of existing ones must be permitted to ensure that they will not contribute to significant deterioration of air quality. While NSR has long been used to regulate traditional air pollutants, when it comes to feeding an appetite for climate change regulation, NSR doesn’t really hit the spot. NSR is rather inflexible, costly to implement, and results in relatively limited emission reductions. Given the difficulty in developing standards for the large number of sources that emit greenhouse gases and the need to provide incentives for technological change in order to achieve deep reductions over time, new source review simply isn't the right recipe for our current needs.
This chef’s recommendation: a well-designed cap-and-trade program that is aggressive enough to yield needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while spurring the technological innovations we need to make those reductions and grow our economy. Enactment of a cap-and-trade program means we can send back duplicative programs like NSR and still be satisfied.
Sure, we’ll need complementary policies that work in a coordinated fashion with a cap-and-trade program. These side dishes of the cap-and-trade meal are targeted programs that are designed to enhance cap-and-trade’s impacts without getting in the way of the functioning of the primary program. A comprehensive climate bill can work just fine without NSR.
Michael Tubman is the Congressional Affairs Fellow
EPA has proposed what many are calling the Agency’s first major step down the road to regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. The newly proposed “tailoring” rule applies to requirements for major new or expanded sources and to permits for stationary sources, but does so in a carefully targeted manner. It’s the right place for EPA to start.
It’s critical to understand both what the proposal does and doesn’t do, and why EPA needed to begin here.
Contrary to some press accounts, the proposed rule does not impose new control requirements on all large stationary sources. Best available control technologies would be required only of new stationary sources that emit over 25,000 tons per year or major modifications to existing sources that increase emissions by 10,000-25,000 tons per year – a range EPA sought comment on. If yours is not one of the estimated 400 major new or modified facilities each year, you do not face any (new or old) control requirements limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposal also requires that EPA (and states) include greenhouse gas emissions in the permits of roughly 14,000 facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons per year of these pollutants. These permits do not impose any new controls on any source; they simply incorporate into a permit EPA’s new mandatory reporting requirements.
On August 25, 2008, twelve states filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating the Clean Air Act by not regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil refineries. A Supreme Court ruling in 2007 found that the EPA had the power to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. The suit says that oil refineries account for 3 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and about 15 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes; it seeks to force the EPA to adopt new standards to cover these emissions.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is leading the lawsuit filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. New York is joined in filing the suit by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and New York City.
State coalitions have previously sued the EPA in pursuit of standards for power plant emissions and to uphold states’ rights to regulate automobile emissions.
On April 2, 2008, 12 states, the District of Columbia, two cities, and several environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The states and other petitioners are asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to force the EPA to issue within 60 days its formal determination of the public health impacts from GHG emissions. In filing their suit, the plaintiffs cited the Supreme Court’s April 2007 decision in Massachusetts et al v. EPA, in which the Court ruled that the EPA is authorized to regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act, and must consider doing so unless it can demonstrate that these gases do not contribute to climate change that harms human health and welfare. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the EPA has not issued any formal language or rules for the regulation of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. The states joining the lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland and Minnesota.