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EPA to Limit Power Plant, Refinery Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued its plan for moving forward on GHG limits for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries—which represent nearly 40 percent of the GHG emissions in the US.

EPA’s schedule calls for it to propose limits for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011 and will issue final limits in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

Beginning in January, the EPA is requiring power plants, industrial plants and other large stationary greenhouse gas sources to obtain pollution permits under what it calls a “common-sense approach” to GHG permitting for the largest industrial sources. These facilities will be required to include GHGs in their permit if they increase these emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year.

But the rules discussed today set a national, industry-specific standard for power plants and refineries which could be applied to existing facilities.

“These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home,” said Administrator Lisa Jackson said. But Republicans say that climate regulations will hurt the economy and are pledging to block them on Capitol Hill, The Hill reports. Other groups, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, are also against the standards.

Republicans and industry groups described today’s agreement as another step toward a “backdoor” cap-and-trade program, vowing to stop the regulations from taking effect, The New York Times reports.

Texas is the only state that said  it won’t revise or accept the EPA’s permitting plan.

In September, the Texas Attorney General asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in separate petitions to block the EPA from rejecting the state’s two permitting programs. The EPA said the Texas program falls short of federal standards for monitoring emissions, and the state’s rules don’t require plants to include all pollution sources when setting limits.

Yesterday, the EPA said it will issue Clean Air Act permits for greenhouse gas emissions on the state’s behalf starting in January  because Texas officials had made it clear in multiple recent statements that TCEQ believes its current SIP, as approved, does not authorize the State to regulate GHGs. “Furthermore,” the EPA said, “Texas officials’ recent statements also make clear that the state agencies have no intention of properly implementing the portion of the federal air permitting program that will cover GHG emissions. Therefore, EPA has concluded that the approval of that portion of Texas’ SIP was in error and has issued a partial disapproval of that portion of state of Texas’s SIP because it does not allow for regulation of GHGs. EPA is also assuming permitting authority for GHGs to ensure adequate permitting of GHGs can occur in the state of Texas in January 2011.”

In addition, the EPA today authorized its ability to permit GHGs in seven states (Ariz., Ark., Fla., Idaho, Kan., Ore., and Wyo.) until the state or local agencies can revise their permitting regulations to cover GHG permitting outlined in the spring 2010 tailoring rule. The EPA has also issued final rules that will ensure that there are no federal laws in place that require any state to issue a permit for GHG emissions below levels outlined in the tailoring rule. More info here.

The EPA plans to host listening sessions with the business community, states and other stakeholders in early 2011 to discuss the rules announced today. It says it will also solicit additional feedback during the routine notice and comment period.  EPA will accept public comment on these two agreements for 30 days following publication of notice in the Federal Register.

Earlier this week, the EPA announced it was proposing actions under the greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting program to address issues about “the public availability of certain data that some businesses may consider to be confidential.”

The agency said it would delay until as late as 2014 a measure to force companies to reveal the amount of fuel and solvents associated with greenhouse-gas emissions.

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