Clean air standards coming for America’s biggest carbon polluters

In a big step forward to protect Americans’ health and well-being, EPA announced today a two-year plan to set clean air standards for power plants and oil refineries, the two largest industrial sources of the dangerous pollution that drives global warming.

NRDC’s David Doniger has the story in this re-post:

Following on the heels of the Obama administration’s breakthrough clean car standards, EPA is now taking the next logical steps under the Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court’s landmark global warming decision in 2007.

EPA is doing precisely what is needed to protect our health and welfare at a time when some would prefer just to roll back the clock.  Clear pollution control standards based on available and affordable technology will also help these two industries plan future investments, fuel the economic recovery, and create jobs.

Power plants account for more than 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, more than any other industry.  Oil refineries clock in as the second largest source, with emissions equivalent to more than 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (mainly a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane).

The timetables announced today are contained in two settlement agreements that resolve lawsuits brought against EPA by NRDC and a coalition of states and other environmental organizations — the cases are called New York v. EPA (No. 06-1322) and American Petroleum Institute v. EPA (No. 08-1277), both pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.  In both cases, we sued the Bush-era EPA for refusing to set limits on these industries’ massive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under a part of the Clean Air Act (Section 111) that requires EPA to set performance standards for new and existing industrial facilities.  Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA that the Clean Air Act covers carbon pollution from cars, we have pressed for EPA to acknowledge that it is also required to curb carbon pollution from industrial sources, and to say when it will take action on these two industries.

Under today’s settlements, standards for fossil-fueled power plants will be proposed by July 26, 2011, and issued in final form by May 26, 2012.  Standards for oil refineries will be proposed by December 10, 2011, and issued in final form by November 10, 2012.  (The settlements are here and here.)

Section 111 of the Clean Air Act requires EPA to set, and every eight years revise, performance standards for various categories of industries. These standards apply to both new and existing sources. EPA sets the new source standards, while EPA and the states share the job for existing sources.  Section 111 requires consideration of cost and technical feasibility when determining the standards.  It also requires EPA and the states to take into account existing sources’ remaining useful life.

EPA plans to coordinate each industry’s carbon emission standards with other upcoming pollution control requirements in a sectoral, multi-pollutant approach that facilitates sound planning and investment strategies for each industry.  These standards will also assist industries and states in the case-by-case assessment of “best available control technology” for the largest new sources, a process that begins this January.

Big polluters and their allies in Congress plan to take aim at these and other common sense standards that save thousands of lives and avoid tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other life-threatening illness each year. But the Clean Air Act is a tough target.  It has the support of millions of Americans, built on 40 years saving lives and protecting communities across the country, while promoting economic growth.  Congress should celebrate, not delay or block, Clean Air Act standards that protect our health and well-being.  Congress should let EPA do its job.

David Doniger is the policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center and their chief global warming lawyer. This is re-post from NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

8 Responses to Clean air standards coming for America’s biggest carbon polluters

  1. From Peru says:

    As a consecuence to the economic crisis, the government had to nationalize General Motors to save it from bankrupcy, as a part of the Auto Industry bailout.

    Having nationalized GM, the government could go beyond regulation: it could directly plan the reconversion of the automobile production to fuel efficient, hybrid or even electric vehicles

    For examples it could mandate:

    – All new cars should improve the energy efficiency by 5 mpg every 5 years.
    -10% of new cars should be hybrids in two years and 30% in four years
    -10% of cars should be electric in four years

    This standards should remain once the company is privatized again, as mandatory clause in the privatization contract (if it is not fullfilled GM should return to the State until someone else could fullfill the norm)

    Had any progress be done in this direction?

  2. John McCormick says:

    From the pen of Dr. Michael Mann,

    “If one considers the collective impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gases alone, we have already reached 450 ppm CO2eq. It is only when the cooling due to anthropogenic aerosol production (e.g., sulfate) is taken into account (equivalent to 80 ppm CO2eq) that we appear to be safely below the 450-ppm number, at an effective 375 ppm CO2eq [this number is uncertain, due to the substantial uncertainty in estimates of the net impact of anthropogenic aerosols (13)]. If we were to suddenly halt the various dirty industrial and agricultural processes responsible for anthropogenic sulfate, nitrate, and other aerosols, we would suddenly find ourselves with 450 ppm CO2eq on our hands.”

    There is a disconnect between David Doniger’s short term objective and Dr. Mann’s long term view. Joe, do you agree?

    John McCormick

  3. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Forgive me for just saying, WOW.

    And a butt load of thanks to the NRDC, who endure constant attacks, not only from the Right, but the far-Left. They are producing results where others have not.

  4. Some European says:

    On regulation:

    The BBC reports that there will be a cap on purchase of new cars in Beijing next year.
    This year 750,000 new cars were registered, next year the upper limit is set to 240,000. That’s a 70% reduction, folks!!

    It seems impossible, but maybe it’s a taste of what’s ahead for western countries if the climate zombies keep pushing their ultraliberal agendas: freedom to intoxicate your neighbor, freedom to drive species to extinction, freedom to make the planet unlivable for the next (and last?) 4 generations.

  5. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    I’m surprised at the lack of comments on this. Perhaps there is doubt that the 2012 deadline is real and will occur?

    BTW, go to and look at the Texas newspaper front page headlines. This is the top story.

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for new power plants and oil refinery emission standards over the next year.

    In an announcement posted on the agency’s website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.

    “We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans,” Jackson said in a statement. She said emissions from power plants and oil refineries constitute about 40 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in this country.

    President Barack Obama had said two days after the midterm elections that he was disappointed Congress hadn’t acted on legislation achieving the same end, signaling that other options were under consideration.

    Jackson’s announcement came on the same day that the administration showed a go-it-alone approach on federal wilderness protection — another major environmental issue. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency was repealing the Bush era’s policy limiting wilderness protection, which was adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

    On climate change, legislation in Congress putting a limit on heat-trapping greenhouse gases and allowing companies to buy and sell pollution permits under that ceiling — a system known as “cap and trade” — stalled in the Senate earlier this year after narrowly clearing the House. Republicans assailed it as “cap and tax,” arguing that it would raise energy prices.

    But the Senate in late June rejected by a 53-47 vote a challenge brought by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski that would have denied the EPA the authority to move ahead with the rules.

    Jackson noted in Thursday’s statement that her agency that several state and local governments and environmental groups had sued EPA over the agency’s failure to update or publish new standards for fossil fuel plants and petroleum refineries.

  7. Raul M. says:

    Can sue Congress for not letting EPA do
    what it is supposed to do?