Canadian Biomass Magazine

U.S. EPA developing GHG standards

January 3, 2011
By Argus Media


U.S. EPA developing GHG standards
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans for fossil-fuel-fired power plants and oil refineries to be subject to federal greenhouse gas emissions standards by the end of 2012.

Jan. 3, 2011, Washington, D.C. – U.S.
fossil-fuel-fired power plants and oil refineries will be subject to federal
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards by the end of 2012, a key government
official says. The official spoke as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) laid out its timeline for establishing New Source Performance Standards
(NSPS) for greenhouse gases. The technology-based standards for the utility
sector will be addressed initially, with a proposal due on July 26, 2011. A
final rule will be adopted by May 26, 2012. The regulations would mainly affect
oil and coal-fired electricity generating units, the assistant administrator
for EPA's office of air and radiation Gina McCarthy said in a call with

Standards for refineries will be proposed
by December 15, 2011, with final regulations due by November 15, 2012. Before proposing the standards, EPA intends
to consult with industry representatives and other stakeholders to determine
what standards can be set based on technology that is available and
cost-effective, says McCarthy. But NSPS “allow a lot of flexibility,” she says.
NSPS are used for a wide array of sectors and pollutants and apply to new major
sources of emissions and existing major sources undergoing major modifications.
Although the requirements will immediately affect new greenhouse gas sources,
EPA does not expect existing facilities will be affected until 2015–2016,
McCarthy says.

States can delay or weaken federal
performance standards if they can show that meeting them would be physically
impossible, cost-prohibitive, or otherwise overly arduous. Local air regulators
have latitude to delay implementing the standards for up to three years by
taking into account factors such as the remaining useful life of existing plants
undergoing major modifications. But state regulators can also tighten and speed
such standards.

The NSPS are separate from the greenhouse
gas permitting rules that will take effect on January 2, 2011. Beginning next
year, state air regulators must consider greenhouse gases when drawing up air
permits for large new or modified sources and determine what qualifies as best
available control technology for the pollutants on a project-by-project basis.


The timeline is part of a settlement of two
court cases filed by several states and environmental advocacy groups. EPA was
initially petitioned to take this action in 2006. A second petition was filed
in 2008, after the Supreme Court in 2007 upheld the agency's authority to
regulate greenhouse gases. Those cases had been put on hold while EPA developed
such rules as greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles and
the permitting rule for large stationary sources. But the agency has agreed to
address the greenhouse gas NSPS, as it was petitioned.

Many conservatives have declared they will
use their increased presence in the new Congress to attack, and even block,
many EPA rulemakings. This could be accomplished by slashing the agency's
funding next year or retracting some of its regulatory authority. U.S.
representative Fred Upton (R-Michigan), who will head the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, called the plan a “Christmas surprise” that “marks a
crescendo in the EPA's long regulatory assault against America's energy

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