States will have broad leeway in determining how to limit emissions from power plants, factories and other big polluters when new greenhouse-gas regulations take effect in January, according to a new directive from the Obama administration.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued guidance and tools on Wednesday (Nov. 10) to help state and local regulators “identify cost-effective pollution reduction options for greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act,” the agency said in a statement.
EPA did not define or require a specific control option for a particular type of source. Instead, the agency recommended that permitting authorities “use the best available control technology (BACT) process to look at all available emission reduction options for GHGs.” BACT is determined on a case-by-case basis.
“After taking into account technical feasibility, cost and other economic, environmental and energy considerations, permitting authorities should narrow the options and select the best one,” the agency said in a statement.
“EPA anticipates that, in most cases, this process will show that the most cost effective way for industry to reduce GHG emissions will be through energy efficiency.”
EPA called the process “a common-sense approach” to controlling GHG pollution, which it said “threatens the health and welfare of all Americans and contributes to climate change.”
The EPA guidance and resources provide basic information that permit writers and applicants need to address GHGs, as well as examples of how permitting requirements could apply.
A ‘Time-Tested Process’
“‘EPA is working closely with its partners at the state and local levels to ensure permitting for greenhouse gases runs smoothly,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office Air and Radiation.
“To identify GHG reduction options, EPA and the states are now ready to apply the same time-tested process they have used for other pollutants. This shows that the Clean Air Act can be used to reduce these gases in a cost effective way.”‘
Large emitters of GHGs that are planning to build or significantly modify facilities after Jan. 1 “will work with permitting authorities to identify and implement BACT to minimize their GHGs,” EPA said.
The rule affects power plants, refineries, cement production facilities and other large emitters; emissions from farms, restaurants and other small sources are currently exempt.
The guidance is EPA’s latest move in limiting GHG emissions from refineries, chemical plants and other large stationary sources under a tailoring rule it announced this past spring.
The GHG initiative has drawn sharp criticism from many business and political quarters, including the American Chemical Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who call it too burdensome and costly. In August, the State of Texas told EPA in a letter that the climate rules were illegal and that the state would refuse to “pledge allegiance” to them.
“We are disappointed that Texas hasn’t engaged in this process,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.
McCarthy rejected claims that the GHG limits would hurt businesses. “The Clean Air Act for 40 years has found a way to issue permits in a way that allows the economy to grow,” she said. “We aren’t going to stop that….”
‘Muddied the Waters’
The guidance issued Wednesday was less onerous than business groups had feared, but its open-ended message left confusion on both sides of the issue. Environmental groups praised it as a flexible approach, while business groups continued to express concern about its effect on the economy. They also raised the potential of a patchwork of conflicting requirements for companies that operate in multiple states.
Rockefeller said in published reports that he would continue to seek to delay the regulation. Scott Segal, a Washington lobbyist for several coal-burning utilities, told Bloomberg News that the rules would impose the equivalent of a “construction moratorium” on the energy and manufacturing sectors “that could materially hamper economic recovery.”
Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s industry-funded Maguire Energy Institute, said the directive had “muddied the waters.”
“My concern is the energy and manufacturing sectors won’t know what to do,” Weinstein told Bloomberg.
EPA has invited public comment on the guidance document over the next few weeks “on any aspect that contains technical or calculation errors or where the guidance would benefit from additional clarity.”
Learn more at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgpermitting.html.