EPA takes first step to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from airlines

AFP 507864996 I FIN CHE GE

By Bart Jansen, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Airline emissions threaten human health by contributing to climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed Wednesday.

The proposal for a so-called “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act is a precursor to the EPA proposing regulations to limit heat-trapping emissions from plane exhaust. The agency will collect public comment about the proposal for 60 days and will hold a hearing Aug. 11.

“The EPA administrator is proposing to find that (greenhouse gas) emissions from certain classes of engines used primarily in commercial aircraft contribute to the air pollution that causes climate change and endangers public health and welfare,” the agency said in a statement.

Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said the proposal doesn’t specify reductions in emissions because the U.S. is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations, to develop worldwide standards.

ICAO is expected to release its proposed emissions curbs by February 2016, and EPA would finalize its decision on whether the emissions endanger public health by spring 2016. Grundler acknowledged that U.S. emissions regulations would be proposed in the next presidential administration in 2017 and completed in 2018, if emissions are determined a danger.

“Today’s notice does not pose requirements on any aircraft engines,” Grundler said.”Our goal is to adopt a sound international standard.”

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said an international standard makes sense because it would be untenable for airlines to deal with a patchwork of regulations in different countries.

“I think it’s a common-sense reason why we would rely on an international standard,” he said.

Environmental advocates welcomed the endangerment proposal, but voiced disappointment that EPA proposed to wait for an international agreement to actually curb greenhouse-gas emissions from aviation.

Deborah Lapidus, director of the advocacy group Flying Clean Campaign, said aviation fuel efficiency declined since 2010 and that aviation remains the largest industry not regulated by EPA for its emissions.

“Airlines have responsibility to do their part on climate change, just like any other industry,” Lapidus said.

But airlines have bridled at national or regional rules for curbing emissions, preferring worldwide standards for the competitive industry. Airlines worldwide agreed in 2013 to halt the growth in emissions from international flights by 2020.

 

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