EPA Offers States GHG Guidance for Regulating Big Polluters

EPA Offers States GHG Guidance for Regulating Big Polluters

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Señor Codo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued guidance on pollution permitting to states Wednesday, the day after the agency finalized greenhouse gas reporting requirements for the petroleum and natural gas sectors.

The guidance is designed to help states identify cost-effective ways of reducing and minimizing emissions at new or upgraded carbon-intensive facilities seeking air permits, such as power plants, cement kilns and refineries.

Although the guidance doesn't require specific emissions control for particular sources, it does emphasize energy efficiency as being the most likely cost-effective means of minimizing emissions, but offers wide latitude to states to make permitting decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The move is intended to allay industry fears that the requirements would be too burdensome and to smooth the transition to greenhouse gas permitting, which is scheduled to begin in January. All states will participate except for Texas, which is refusing to comply. There are also outstanding legal challenges to regulation.

"EPA is working closely with its partners at the state and local levels to ensure permitting for greenhouse gases runs smoothly," Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office Air and Radiation, said in a statement. "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."

On Tuesday, EPA issued final reporting rules for the petroleum and natural gas sectors. Beginning next year, petroleum and natural gas facilities producing more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually must track the information. Facilities will begin reporting 2011 data in March 2012.

The sectors are a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

These are the latest regulatory moves from the EPA since the midterm elections, during which the Republicans wrested control of the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate, dimming already slim chances of soon passing comprehensive climate legislation.

In the absence of federal climate regulation, the EPA is moving forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Señor Codo.