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EPA: Greenhouse gas permits won’t target smaller sources

Monday, February 27, 2012  
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The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t plan — at least for now — to expand greenhouse gas permitting requirements beyond major industrial polluters like power plants, refineries and other big industrial sites.

"We have found that the capabilities of the state permitting authorities have not improved to the extent necessary for additional sources to be brought into the system,” the agency states in a proposal that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed on Friday.

The plan — posted on EPA’s website Friday — comes just days before Jackson heads to Capitol Hill to defend the agency’s budget request.

The announcement could help insulate the agency from political attacks by critics who say that regulating greenhouse gases will create major economic burdens and hurt scores of small businesses across the country.

The current permitting program began taking effect last year. It essentially targets facilities that have greenhouse gas emissions of 100,000 tons per year or projects that increase emissions by 75,000 tons.

EPA, in announcing it doesn’t currently plan to lower the permitting thresholds, calls the decision part of a "common-sense, phased-in approach to greenhouse gas permitting under the Clean Air Act.”

The current levels are enough to capture thousands of industrial facilities.

The case-by-case permitting program has captured facilities such as power plants, cement plants, refineries, lime production facilities and others, according to EPA.

The agency, when setting the thresholds in 2010, said the plan to focus initially on the biggest emitters would shield "millions” of small sources.

EPA and state officials have thus far issued 18 permits with greenhouse gas requirements under the program, and have received an additional 50 applications, according to the EPA proposal.

But the proposal notes that "we consider the relative lull in permit activity due largely to the recent economic downturn to be temporary, and we expect that the pace of permit applications will increase.”

EPA is working on separate rules that would create national greenhouse gas standards for new and modified power plants and refineries.

- Ben Geman, The Hill

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