Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Council on Environmental Quality, on February 18, 2010, proposed three substantive steps to “modernize and reinvigorate” the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to Nancy Sutley, the Chair of the White House-based CEQ, these measures “will assist Federal agencies to meet the goals of NEPA, enhance the quality of public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the environment, increase transparency and ease implementation.”

These three steps include when and how Federal agencies must consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in their proposed actions; clarifying appropriateness of “Findings of No Significant Impact” and specifying when there is a need to monitor environmental mitigation commitments; and clarifying use of categorical exclusions. The CEQ is requesting public comment on all three of the draft guidances.

The Effects of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Must be Considered in the NEPA Process

Perhaps the most critical element to this modernization of the NEPA process is the CEQ’s draft guidance on when and how Federal agencies must consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in their proposed actions. According to the CEQ:


Continue Reading CEQ’s Steps to Modernize and Reinvigorate NEPA Includes Reporting on Climate Change Effects of Federal Actions

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final finding that emission of six greenhouse gases endangered the public’s health and the environment because of their effect on climate change, the business community wondered how it should respond to the news.  At first glance, there seems to be blinding maze of legal and policy issues that will affect business decisions.  Although far from clear, there is a way out of the maze – although businesses with significant greenhouse gas emissions should be prepared to tackle the important issues that the Endangerment Finding raises.

Businesses Need to Take a Deep Breath (Irony Intended)

The road to the endangerment finding began in 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Massachusetts v. EPA that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases constituted “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.  To most savvy businessmen this was a clear signal to start planning how their businesses would cope with the establishment of limits on emission of greenhouse gases.  Although the Bush Administration EPA successfully sat on the issue, when the Obama Administration took office, most companies recognized that an endangerment finding would top the EPA’s list of major environmental actions.  Thus, EPA’s announcement this past April of its proposed finding and its announcement of the final endangerment finding should have come as no surprise to anyone who has been monitoring this issue.

The key thing for businesses to remember is that the endangerment finding by itself does not regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from any source, large or small.  That being said, it does have a direct impact on mobile sources (because of section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act), with the EPA planning on issuing its final “light-duty vehicle” greenhouse gas emissions rule some time in Spring 2010.


Continue Reading What Does EPA’s Finding that Greenhouse Gas Emissions Endanger Public Health and the Environment Mean to Business?

Update 09/30/09 The Boxer-Kerry bill introduced at the press conference this morning – also known as Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – dropped the provision requiring the EPA Administrator to promulgate standards for aircraft and aircraft engines.  Instead, it includes a more general provision that

. . . the Administrator may establish provisions for

On March 10, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release proposing the first comprehensive national system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by major sources in the United States.  Although the EPA has yet determine whether greenhouse gases, such carbon dioxide, are "pollutants" under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has taken this step to gather "comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases."

The EPA stated that the new reporting requirements would apply to suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, as well as large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or greater than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year.  The EPA estimates that it will affect approximately 13,00 facilities, which account for about 85% to 90% of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States.  For a listing of the various industries that EPA believes will be affected, see the end of this post.

In order to differentiate it from the mandatory greenhouse gas reporting programs developed by states and regional programs, the EPA will require automobile, truck and engine manufacturers to report emissions from the engines they produce.  The first annual report would be submitted to EPA in 2011 for the calendar year 2010, except for vehicle and engine manufacturers, which would begin reporting for model year 2011.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 after publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.  Two public hearings will be held during the comment period.

The Proposed Rule:

Information regarding the public hearing:

Other Information regarding the Proposed Rule:


Continue Reading EPA Proposes National Reporting Rules for Emissions of Greenhouse Gases

As part of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) "Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan," the Board, on October 24, 2008, released its Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal on recommended approaches for setting Interim significance thresholds for greenhouse gases under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for

At a May 6, 2008, hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation, the FAA sought to dispel several "myths" concerning the effect that aircraft emissions of greenhouse gases have on the environment.  Coming a little over one month after the EPA announced its plans to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for aircraft emissions of GHG (see, "EPA Plans to Release an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Emissions" below),  Daniel K. Elwell, Assistant Administrator, Office of Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment, testified that there were three myths that needed to be put to rest.  First, Mr. Elwell stated that aircraft emissions account for only 3% of GHG emissions, and “the largest aviation market in the world is burning less fuel today than in 2000.”  Indeed, Mr. Elwell, said, aviation in general and aircraft in particular are becoming more fuel efficient, now outstripping automobiles in terms of energy intensity – that is automobiles burn more BTUs per passenger mile than aircraft.  This increase in fuel efficiency and the attend reduction in GHG emissions was one of the primary themes of several other witnesses as well:

Second, Mr. Elwell stated that CO2 emissions by aircraft at altitude do not have any more (or any
Continue Reading House Subcommittee on Aviation Hears FAA Testimony on Aircraft Emissions of Greenhouse Gases

At a April 2, 2008, hearing entitled "From the Wright Brothers to the Right Solutions:  Curbing Soaring Aviation Emissions," the EPA indicated its plans to release an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) soon to solicit comments regarding curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aircraft engines.  Robert Meyers, principal deputy assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that the agency had received petitions urging EPA to determine that aircraft emissions cause or contribute to air pollution and endanger public health. The petitions further urge EPA to adopt regulations to control emissions.  The FAA also presented its thought at the Hearing.  Daniel K. Elwell, Assistant Administrator, Office of Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment, testified that the FAA believed that strides were already being made toward reducing GHG emitted from aircraft and counseled patience, since aircraft emissions account for only 3% of GHG in the United States.

Also testifying were:


Continue Reading EPA Plans To Release An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Aircraft Emissions