Faced with legal and NGO pressure, US EPA starts domestic regulatory process to address aircraft emissions
Mon 15 Sept 2014 – After years of pressure from environmental organisations, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun a domestic regulatory process to address greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from aircraft. Under the process, the agency will determine whether aircraft GHGs cause or contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare and intends to release its findings by late April 2015. In a paper to ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), the EPA says under its current schedule it will issue a final determination in spring 2016. The EPA and FAA are currently working within CAEP to establish an international CO2 emissions standard for aircraft that they expect to be agreed in February 2016. The EPA move was welcomed by US NGOs, which had threatened to sue the agency over a perceived failure to act on tackling GHG emissions.
Concurrent with its endangerment determination, the EPA says it will release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to provide an overview of CAEP’s GHG reduction efforts and ICAO progress in establishing global aircraft CO2 standards.
“If the EPA finds that aircraft GHG emissions do cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and /or welfare, the potential use of the Clean Air Act to implement these standards domestically will ensure transparency and the opportunity for public comment,” says the EPA paper.
Just a month ago, three US environmental NGOs filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA “for failing to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas pollution” (see article), having secured a ruling by a federal judge three years previously that the EPA had to act.
The EPA paper acknowledges “domestic pressures from stakeholders and court proceedings” and says it was initiating the rulemaking process in response to a petition it received in December 2007 and a lawsuit in 2010 that ruled the Clean Air Act required it to make an endangerment determination.
According to conservation organisation Center for Biological Diversity, the process now underway requires the EPA to act domestically regardless of international action.
“We are delighted that the EPA has finally taken the first step to reduce the airline industry’s massive and ever-increasing greenhouse gas pollution, a dangerous threat to our climate,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “After nearly two decades of inaction, we don’t know if the international community will issue meaningful carbon emission standards by 2016. But the good news is that the EPA must, and will, act – despite international foot-dragging. That reality may even lead to the first enforceable aircraft climate change treaty the world has known.”
Added Friends of the Earth analyst John Kaltenstein: “EPA’s action gets us on the right track to tackle the carbon output of the aviation industry – a sector that has flown beneath the radar and not received the scrutiny it merits. A good deal of work lies ahead for the agency, though, and we’ll see moving forward if it has the resolve to make a real impact, or if this effort is more show than substance.”