EPA Dips a Cautious Toe in the Tepid Waters of Carbon Dioxide Regulation

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In the absence of any congressional legislative action on regulating greenhouse gas emissions and with political momentum on its side, the Obama administration announced today it would be moving forward with its plan to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from large point sources, namely refineries and power plants, which represent nearly 40 percent of the GHG emissions in the United States. But in announcing the timelines for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA was quite careful to sound cautious, measured, flexible and reasoned.

In a press release titled “EPA to Set Modest Pace for Greenhouse Gas Standards: Agency stresses flexibility and public input in developing cost-effective and protective GHG standards for largest emitters,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said today, “We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change.”

So while today’s announcement did not set forth the regulations, it did set forth the timeline and process for establishing those regulations. EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

What exactly does this mean? Grist’s David Roberts writes:

Today’s announcement means that a lot of existing sources that were “grandfathered” (i.e., exempted) under the original Clean Air Act — in particular, dirty old coal plants — are now going to have to clean up for the first time ever. That’s a sea change.”

So as the 111th Congress adjourns and President Obama heads to Hawaii to join his family for Christmas, the wheels of the U.S. Government continue to roll, albeit cautiously, toward the goal of regulating and ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

2011 should be an interesting year.

Article by Timothy B. Hurst, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.

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