CLIMATE:

EPA won't regulate stationary sources before 2011

U.S. EPA will begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources no sooner than January 2011, the agency formally announced today.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson laid out the timeline for starting regulation of heat-trapping emissions for industrial facilities in the agency's reconsideration of a George W. Bush administration policy. If EPA finalizes its first greenhouse gas standards for tailpipes as proposed last year, those rules would kick in on Jan. 2, 2011, EPA said.

EPA agreed to reconsider the policy outlined in the Bush administration's "Johnson memo" last year after the Sierra Club and other groups petitioned the agency.

But EPA announced today it will uphold former Administrator Stephen Johnson's determination that facilities are required to obtain New Source Review and operating permits only for pollutants that are subject to "actual control" under the Clean Air Act, as opposed to those that are subject to monitoring and reporting requirements, or other definitions.

Those requirements will be triggered when the first greenhouse gas standards "take effect," EPA said. The agency is planning to finalize greenhouse gas standards for automobiles later this week. If finalized as proposed, that rule would trigger permitting rules for stationary sources next January, when automakers must begin to comply with the rules.

"This is a common sense plan for phasing in the protections of the Clean Air Act," Jackson said in a statement. "It gives large facilities the time they need to innovate, governments the time to prepare to cut greenhouse gases and it ensures that we don't push this problem off to our children and grandchildren."

Jackson first laid out the details of EPA's plans in a letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and other moderate Democrats last month.

Jackson assured the lawmakers that no stationary sources would face greenhouse gas regulations this year and that EPA will defer permitting requirements for sources that only qualify as "major" sources based on their greenhouse gas emissions. Small sources will not be subject to permitting requirements any sooner than 2016, Jackson said.

State and local air permitting authorities had urged EPA to begin applying permitting requirements when auto companies must begin to comply with greenhouse gas rules to give them more time to prepare.

"Today's announcement by EPA to defer the requirement for industrial facilities to obtain permits covering greenhouse gases until January 2011 will be extraordinarily helpful to every state in this country," said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

"Providing nine additional months for states to revise their clean air laws and regulations will enable these agencies to closely align their programs with the federal permitting rules, thereby assuring a smooth and rational transition to the daunting but important challenges of regulating greenhouse gases from industrial facilities."

No 'grandfathering' of pending applications

EPA also confirmed today that there will be no "grandfathering" of pending permit applications. Any permits issued after Jan. 2 will have to address greenhouse gas emissions, the agency said, even if applications were filed and determined to be complete before that date.

Jeff Holmstead, an industry attorney and former EPA air chief during the George W. Bush administration, has criticized that policy.

"As a matter of law, that's not the way it works," Holmstead said earlier this month. "It's not whatever requirements apply when they finally decide to give you your permit" (Greenwire, March 8).

But Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, disagreed.

"The law is clear that until a permit is issued, there is no final decision," Patton said. "EPA's action indicating that unless you have a final permit in hand, you don't have authorization to construct, just follows plainly and manifestly from the text of the statute."

Murkowski seeks more clarity

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), blasted Jackson today for failing to provide Congress with sufficient information about how EPA plans to move forward with climate change regulations.

Today's announcement lays out what EPA will do in 2011, Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said, but does not provide enough details about regulations over the long term. Murkowski, a vocal opponent of EPA climate rules, is spearheading an effort in the Senate that would block the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.

Jackson responded to a series of questions posed by Murkowski in a letter dated March 26, but the Alaska senator said that many of her questions remain unanswered.

Murkowski requested a personal meeting with Jackson in a letter sent Friday, saying that the agency chief's letter failed to shed new light on how EPA intends to implement its pending Clean Air Act regulations.

"Americans remain concerned about the impact these regulations will have on their economy, and they can't get a straight answer out of the EPA," Dillon said.

Click here to read the final reconsideration.

Click here to read EPA's fact sheet.

Click here to read Jackson's March 26 letter to Murkowski.

Click here to read Murkowski's response.

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