Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson today announced she expects the EPA to weaken its proposed standards for global warming pollution from stationary sources and delay implementation until 2011. Responding to a letter from eight Democratic senators with strong ties to coal, oil, and industrial polluters, Jackson previewed changes to the rule to regulate greenhouse gases which her agency proposed last September she expects to make in its final form. Under the Clean Air Act, the finalization of the greenhouse gas endangerment finding originally expected in March — now, according to Jackson’s letter, in April — will trigger permitting requirements for stationary sources.
Jackson’s proposed “tailoring” rule would have limited permitting requirements to emitters of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, instead of the automatic statutory amount of 250 tons. The 25,000-ton threshold covers only 14,000 industrial pollution sources nationwide, 11,000 of which are currently covered by the Clean Air Act permitting requirements already.
However, today Jackson announced that the “decision-making process has moved far enough along that I can make several central points based on modifications I expect to make in finalizing EPA’s previous proposals,” including a 2011 start date and a “substantially higher” threshold than 25,000 tons:
— No stationary sources will be required to get a Clean Air Act permit to cover its greenhouse gas emissions in calendar year 2010.
— EPA will phase-in permit requirements and regulation of greenhouse gases for large stationary sources beginning in calendar year 2011.
— In the first half of 2011, only those facilities that must apply for Clean Air Act permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions will need to address their greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.
— Greenhouse gas emissions permit for other large sources will phase in starting in the latter half of 2011.
— Until 2013, the threshold for permitting will be substantially higher than the 25,000 ton limit that EPA originally proposed.
— The EPA will not subject the smallest sources to Clean Air Act permitting any sooner than 2016, after Obama has left office, even if he wins a second term.
Many of the world’s top climate scientists have warned that global emissions of greenhouse gases “almost certainly need to decline extremely rapidly after 2015” if there is to be a good chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.
The conservative Democratic senators who questioned the economic consequences of the EPA’s endangerment finding were led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and included Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Pat Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Max Baucus (D-MT). Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-NE), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) joined numerous Republicans in supporting a bid to overturn the scientific endangerment finding entirely.
If the endangerment finding is overturned, Jackson notes in her letter, “it would undo the historic agreement among states, automakers, the federal government, and other stakeholders” for higher fuel-economy standards, “leaving the automobile industry without the explicit nationwide uniformity that it has described as important to its business.” Not to mention the health and economic costs of failing to reduce our deadly dependence on oil.
William Becker, Executive Director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which strongly supports the endangerment finding, praised today’s announcement with the following statement:
State and local clean air agencies applaud EPA Administrator Jackson for laying out a practical and effective path forward for permitting large greenhouse gas-emitting facilities under the Clean Air Act. EPA has demonstrated that it is not only listening to states’ concerns, but is relying upon states’ solutions. With the additional time and flexibility EPA is providing, states will be able to administer the permit program more efficiently and effectively.
,NRDC’s Climate Center policy director David Doniger praises delay of permitting requirements until 2011:
This schedule allows a reasonable transition time for companies planning to build or expand the largest sources.
,Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) want to legislate delayed protections against global warming, with the ironic justification that “we cannot gamble on our future“:
I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation in to the future – this is good progress but I am concerned it may not go far enough. I believe we need to set in stone through legislation enough time for Congress to consider a comprehensive energy bill. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications on clean coal state economies and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency. We cannot gamble on our future especially at a time when so many people are hurting. As I evaluate the EPA’s letter, I remain committed to presenting legislation that would provide Congress the space it needs to craft a workable policy that will protect jobs and stimulate the economy.
,Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is even less satisfied, raising the tired economy-vs-environment canard as her state melts into oblivion:
While the delay in implementation is a small forced step in the right direction, the Clean Air Act continues to be the wrong tool for the job, and EPA’s timeline continues to create significant and ongoing uncertainty for a business community. Congress is the appropriate body to address climate policy. Until the specter of command-and-control regulations goes away, it will remain a counterproductive threat hanging over the work that must be done to find common ground. The EPA has restated its commitment to regulating greenhouse gases, down to the smallest emitters, regardless of the economic consequences.
EPA regulation of greenhouse gases will increase consumer energy prices, add greatly to administrative costs for businesses, and create massive new layers of government bureaucracy. Such regulation, even slightly delayed, will endanger job creation, economic growth, and America’s competitiveness.