EPA to Regulate Aircraft NOx; GHGs Could Be Next
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed nitrogen oxide standards for engines used primarily in large commercial aircraft, including 737s, 747s and 767s, just days after a court decided that the EPA has responsibility to regulate carbon emissions from aviation.
The EPA has published a proposed rulemaking to adopt the NOx emission standards approved by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The agency says its proposal would reduce ground-level NOx emissions by about 100,000 tons nationwide by 2030. Exposure to such emissions can cause and aggravate lung diseases and increase susceptibility to respiratory infection, the EPA says.
The standards and related provisions would apply to aircraft gas turbine engines with rated thrusts greater than 26.7 kilonewtons. These engines are used primarily on commercial passenger and freight aircraft.
There would be two tiers, referred to as Tier 6 (or CAEP/6) standards and Tier 8 (or CAEP/8) standards. Tier 6 would apply to all new engines starting in 2013, and Tier 8 would apply starting in 2014.
The EPA is also propose to require all gas turbine and turboprop engine manufacturers report emissions data to the agency, for the purpose of conducting emission analyses and developing aviation policy.
The proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register, and will then be open to public comment for 60 days.
Earlier this week, a U.S. District Court judge denied a motion to dismiss claims that the EPA had failed to investigate aircraft engine emissions. He said that the agency had ignored “a required component of the regulatory process,” Courthouse News reports.
Several of the petitioners – Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity – said that the ruling compelled the EPA to formally determine whether greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft endangers human health and welfare, and that the judgement opens the door to U.S. federal regulation of GHGs from aviation.
“We are happy with today’s order. The court has made clear that the EPA has a mandatory obligation to conduct an endangerment finding for aviation emissions,” said Sarah Burt, an Earthjustice attorney. “Although the court determined the EPA has greater discretion regarding marine and nonroad emissions, Judge Kennedy emphasized that this discretion is not unfettered. We will continue to work to compel the EPA to act as soon as possible on marine and nonroad sources of pollution as well as aircraft emissions.”
U.S. and Chinese airlines have been locked in an ongoing battle with the European Union over plans to require all airlines with flights originating or ending in Europe to participate in the continent’s emissions trading system.
Court proceedings against the EU began on Tuesday at the European Court of Justice, Reuters reports.
A fact sheet on the NOx regulations, and the proposed rules, can be viewed here.
Picture credit: Bruno D Rodrigues
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