CLIMATE:

13 states aren't ready for GHG regulations -- EPA

U.S. EPA has released two proposals for the implementation of greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources, unveiling the framework for a plan to let businesses apply to the federal government for permits if states can't -- or won't -- do the job soon enough.

Under the "tailoring" rule finalized in May, the largest new industrial facilities and plants that significantly increase their greenhouse gas emissions will need New Source Review (NSR) permits under the agency's Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program. The facilities covered by the program, which takes effect in January 2011, release about 70 percent of the greenhouse gases produced by stationary sources in the United States.

In one rule released today, EPA says 13 state implementation plans (SIPs) for the PSD program are insufficient because they do not allow for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The agency would issue a "SIP call" under that rule, requiring the states to revise their plans.

The states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon and Texas. All other states would be required to review their rules and inform EPA if they feel they would not be able to issue PSD permits for greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA's second proposed rule outlines a plan to establish a federal implementation plan (FIP) for any state that does not meet requirements. Only the states deemed by EPA to be inadequate would need the federal plan, the rule says.

The reason is that some state plans do not mirror EPA's regulatory rules by applying PSD requirements to any air pollutant that is "subject to regulation." By issuing the "Johnson memo" earlier this year, EPA determined that greenhouse gas regulations would apply to stationary sources after the agency finalized its new regulations on emissions from cars and light-duty trucks.

Some states specifically list the pollutants covered by their PSD programs and do not include greenhouse gases on the list. Others, like Connecticut, explicitly exclude greenhouse gases from regulation under their programs.

In all of the states, lawmakers would need to take action. Because of the controversy surrounding the Obama administration's suite of climate regulations, that could prolong the process.

States would generally prefer to run the programs themselves, regardless of whether they support EPA's regulations, but Texas has refused to comply as part of a broader battle against greenhouse gas regulations.

In a letter sent last week to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and EPA's Dallas-based Region 6 administrator, Al Armendariz, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Bryan Shaw and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said they will not change the state's rules.

"In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrial development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency's recently enacted greenhouse gas regulations -- regulations that are plainly contrary to United States law," they wrote.

The disagreement with Texas is "going to be a shootout at the O.K. Corral," said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, but it is going to be the exception rather than the rule. Most other states are moving forward and should be ready to process permits when the federal regulations take effect on Jan. 2, 2011, he said.

"There will be some, maybe 20 percent or so, who won't make it, but not for lack of trying," Becker said. "They won't make it because either their legislature and/or regulatory bodies have processes in place that are protracted and difficult to achieve quick decisions, but they're working toward making this program operate" (Greenwire, Aug. 4).

EPA intends to give states more time if necessary, EPA air chief Gina McCarthy has said. In today's rules and accompanying documents, the agency said it does not intend to usurp the states' authority over the implementation of the regulations.

"States are best-suited to issue permits to sources of GHG emissions," EPA says in a fact sheet. "They have longstanding experience working together with industrial facilities under their jurisdiction to process PSD permit applications. EPA will continue to provide guidance and act as a resource."

The two rules have not yet been formally proposed with publication in the Federal Register. EPA has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Aug. 25 in Arlington, Va.

Click here to read the proposed "SIP call" rule.

Click here to read the proposal for a federal implementation plan.

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