Greenhouse Gases Going Down Under the Clean Air Act
Federal lawmakers have been working for over a year on the development of energy and climate legislation that would regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. This legislation currently sits in the Senate, where a proposal released last week by Senators Kerry and Lieberman has sparked significant discussion and debate.
But the Obama Administration has not put all its eggs in this legislative basket. The Administration is also pursuing regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under existing legislative authority held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, the EPA may regulate greenhouse gases that threaten public health and welfare. On December 7th of last year, the EPA announced its finding regarding current and projected concentrations of six different greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in our atmosphere. The finding (in short) acknowledged the negative impact of these gases.
Subsequent to this finding, the EPA has developed a set of guidelines that would govern their actions to regulate emissions from large power plants, factories and oil refineries. Under a rule proposed last Thursday, qualifying facilities would be limited in their ability to emit certain greenhouse gases. These facilities would include those that emit at least 75,000 tons (for existing plants) of greenhouse gases per year or 100,000 tons per year for new facilities. These facilities represent 70 percent of stationary greenhouse emissions in the United States today. Mobile emitters (aka you and me when we’re driving our cars) would not be directly impacted by this rule – though we would certainly feel its indirect impact from regulations on oil refineries.