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.