Happy New Year, Planet! EPA Rules on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Take Effect

By Andrew Moseman | January 3, 2011 11:20 am

For several years now, the Environmental Protection Agency has been lurching toward enacting rules to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Yesterday, the first steps of the EPA’s new rules went into effect.

The new regulations come in two parts, the first of which limits the emissions allowed by new cars and light trucks.

The rules apply to 2012 model vehicles, which can be sold starting Sunday. They must now follow toughened CAFE fuel efficiency standards laid out in May. With industry on board—though there’s some grumbling—these steps are relatively uncontroversial. [ScienceNOW]

The second and more contentious part of EPA’s action are new rules for power plants, factories, and refineries. Beginning yesterday (January 2), any new plant that will emit more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide (or the equivalent) annually will need an EPA permit, as will existing plants that install new capacity that emits 75,000 tons or more. The regulations for all existing plants will follow this July, when those that emit the equivalent of 100,000 annual tons will need permits to do so.

These moves have inspired the standard political jockeying, with one side arguing that something must be done to bring down emissions and the other arguing that EPA rules throw a wrench into the economy. For power companies themselves, the rules seem like a mixed bag at the moment:

A number of power companies and refiners say the new rules won’t stop them from expanding over the next few years. Some already have permits for upcoming projects. Others are replacing coal-fired plants with cleaner natural gas plants so they won’t face global warming regulations — yet. But even more significant restrictions are on the way. Just before Christmas, the EPA announced it will set standards for how much carbon dioxide pollution power plants and refineries can release. [NPR]

Perhaps the more pressing question, however, is whether this new greenhouse gas regime will even survive the onslaught of lawsuits that seek to tear it down by questioning the EPA’s authority over the states.

A dozen states have filed suit to halt the new greenhouse gas rules, with one, Texas, flatly refusing to comply with any new orders from Washington. Two federal courts, including one this week in Louisiana, have refused to issue restraining orders halting the implementation of the new rules. But late Thursday, a federal appeals court in Washington temporarily blocked the the E.P.A. from enforcing its rules in Texas while the courts consider whether the federal agency has the right to take over the Texas program. The courts have not yet ruled on the legality of the broader federal program. [The New York Times]

But opponents of emission regulations aren’t the only ones filing lawsuits to push forward their agenda. The Supreme Court is slated to hear an appeal of a case brought by states that want to go after large power companies under “public nuisance” common law to force them to cut emissions that way. Stay tuned.

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
  • scott

    Good! Less pollution = better. Simple as that. Climate change or not, regardless of your views, its only a good thing to lower all the crud we are spewing into our very thin atmosphere.

  • http://www.nicky510.com Crow

    Climate change – it’s got people talking.
    http://www.nicky510.com/comic/its-all-a-matter-of-degree/

  • John Lerch

    I hope that the new regs don’t require a permit for plant modifications whose sole effect would be to cut CO2 emissions.

  • Wil

    Since producing CO2 is an intrinsic requirement of all non-renewable energy technologies known to man, regulating it is really nothing but an enormous, arrogant power grab by unelected and utterly unaccountable bureaucrats, who have no expertise in power generation what-so-ever.

    It is like regulating clothing companies by restricting access to all known fabrics for no good reason, or regulating food companies by restricting access to all known edible substances for no particular reason. It is like telling your teenage son “Sure, you can drive the family car as much as you want. You just have to hold your breath for as long as you are behind the wheel”. All these things are profoundly dishonest and completely irrational.

    Global Warming (if it exists at all) may or may not have some negative consequences, many decades from now. But these fanatical bureaurats want to intentionally and needlessly damage many American industries beginning this year.

    Since no other nations are following suit, shouldn’t the EPA at least be asked what atmospheric benefits the billions of dollars in intentional damage will have for the U.S. or the world? Won’t the increase in CO2 emissions from India and China alone, more than offset the reductions caused by these regulations? Are we all idiots now? Isn’t anybody allowed to ask obvious, rational questions in America any more?

    Even teenage children can quickly see that the ONLY consequences these regulations will have, is to bring the U.S. to its knees economically. But perhaps that is the real motivation of our current marxist EPA bureaucrats.

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    Wil…if you provide some reliable evidence for your statements, you’re less likely to come across as a ranting paranoid lunatic repeating disinformation heard from some factually-challenged radio/tv host, and whose post is just too silly to even discuss. You don’t even know what “marxist” actually means, and that should have been the easiest thing to get right.

  • Wil

    Daniel,

    Please note what happened in the U.S. Congress today:

    http://my.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20110106/a1362173-928b-4246-822a-d34eb81be5c1

    Note towards the bottom of the article, what one Congresswoman said:

    “Capito called the EPA’s actions a power grab that would have devastating effects on the economy. Without congressional action to say otherwise, the EPA will continue to dismantle energy and manufacturing industries through regulation,” she said.

    Gosh, I guess this makes several hundred Congressmen “ranting paranoid lunatics”, just like me, right?

  • http://www.happysmilenow.com happy smile

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