As reported in BNA and referenced in Foley & Hoag’s blog, EPA is rumored to be moving forward with application of New Source Review requirements to large sources of greenhouse gas emissions. BNA reported that EPA would likely set a trigger level of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (other greenhouse gases converted into CO2 tons). All sources emitting above this threshold would have to include Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Congress seems to face stronger head winds on passage of a cap & trade climate legislation. Organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have started a national advertising campaign targeting vulnerable Senators- such as Sherrod Brown in coal dependent Ohio. NAM is using their recent study regarding the impact on energy prices of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) legislation to frame the debate as an energy tax increase.
Missing in the strong opposition to cap & trade is the alternative- regulation of greenhouse gases under the existing authority of the Clean Air Act. U.S. EPA has been in a holding pattern seemingly holding their collective breath that legislation will pass thereby avoiding a regulatory nightmare. However, with opposition growing perhaps EPA is starting see that it needs to raise the prospects of alternative regulatory schemes. The timing of the proposal to included greenhouse gases under New Source Review would appear to support that view.
While the article states that EPA would apply NSR only to the largest sources of greenhouse gases (25,000 tons of CO2), EPA has questionable legal authority to limit application in this fashion. The current statutory language in the Clean Air Act applies NSR to source emitting more than 250 tons of any pollutant. EPA has said before it has no intention of setting the threshold that low. However, that is what the Clean Air Act states is the applicable threshold. Without legislation it certainly seems very questionable as whether EPA has the authority to alter statutory text through regulation.
There appears no doubt that if cap & trade dies this fall that EPA will move forward with a positive endangerment finding and start to issue climate change regulations under its existing authority. Yet the debate in Congress right now seems to be cap & trade versus no regulation. EPA, businesses and environmental groups supporting ACES need to do a better job of framing the debate as- cap & trade versus command and control regulation under the Clean Air Act. If more organizations engaged in the debate in a realistic manner, including NAM, the merits of cap & trade seem to be much greater.
As an indication we are still in the denial phase by some, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to put climate change on trial. As reported on Yale 360:
Facing the prospect that the federal government may soon begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proposing a public hearing in which the chamber and allied scientists question whether human-caused global warming is real. William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice-president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold the rare public hearing, complete with witnesses, cross-examinations, and a judge who would rule whether man is indeed warming the planet.
This ignores the fact that we already had that trial in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in landmark case of Massachusetts v. EPA. The Court found climate change to be real and recognized EPA’s existing authority to regulated greenhouse gases. This from the syllabus of the decision:
Based on respected scientific opinion that a well-documented rise in global temperatures and attendant climatological and environmental changes have resulted from a significant increase in the atmospheric concentration of “greenhouse gases,”
I wonder when the debate over cap & trade will start to honestly include a discussion of this legal reality?
(Photo: everystockphoto: cjohnson7)