EPA Maintains GHG Thresholds, Focus on Larger Polluters

by | Jul 5, 2012

The EPA will maintain greenhouse gas thresholds that target the nation’s largest emitters, which account for nearly 70 percent of pollution from stationary sources.

The final rule will shield smaller emitters from permitting requirements, and establishes a provision that allows companies to set plant-wide emissions limits, known as Plantwide Applicability Limitations, in an effort to reduce permitting burdens on state and local authorities and large industrial emitters, the EPA said. As long as a facility’s emissions stay at or below this plant-wide limit, modifications to the structure can be made without triggering new permitting requirements.

The federal agency decided not to include smaller sources of pollution in the permitting program after consulting with state governments and evaluating the phase-in process.

The final rule affirms GHG thresholds established by the EPA in its 2011 Tailoring Rule, which aimed to reduce emissions from large stationary sources, such as refineries and power plants. The GHG Tailoring Rule will continue to address a group of six GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

New facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent will continue to be required to obtain prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permits. Existing facilities that emit 100,000 tpy of CO2e and make changes to their facilities that would increase emissions by at least 75,000 tpy of CO2e also require a PSD permit. New and existing sources with GHG emissions above 100,000 tpy CO2e must also acquire operating permits.

The EPA’s announcement follows a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last month that upheld the agency’s limits on GHGs. Massey Energy, the US Chamber of Commerce, Texas and Virginia were among companies, organizations and state governments that filed more than 60 lawsuits against the EPA’s findings and regulations.

The EPA declared GHGs pollutants that endanger public health in December 2009, in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the agency had a statutory obligation to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Photo by Flickr user jonasclemens, CC 2.0

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