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EPA sets thresholds for greenhouse gas permitting requirements (5/14)

EPA has announced a final rule to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the largest stationary sources, while shielding millions of small sources of GHGs from Clean Air Act permitting requirements, according to an agency press release.

The phased-in, “common-sense approach,” according to EPA, will address facilities like power plants and oil refineries that are responsible for 70 percent of the greenhouse gases from stationary sources that threaten American’s health and welfare.

EPA’s phased-in approach will start in January 2011, when Clean Air Act permitting requirements for GHGs will kick in for large facilities that are already obtaining Clean Air Act permits for other pollutants. Those facilities will be required to include GHGs in their permit if they increase these emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year (tpy).

In July 2011, Clean Air Act permitting requirements will expand to cover all new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tpy and modifications at existing facilities that would increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy. These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies to minimize GHG emission increases when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

Under the new emissions thresholds for GHGs that begin in July 2011, EPA estimates approximately 900 additional permitting actions covering new sources and modifications to existing sources would be subject to review each year. In addition, 550 sources will need to obtain operating permits for the first time because of their GHG emissions.

In April 2010, EPA set the first national GHG tailpipe standards for passenger cars and light trucks. When GHG emissions limits for these vehicles go into effect in January 2011, EPA is also required to address GHG emissions from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act’s permitting programs, which it is doing in the plan outlined today. The final rule addresses a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

EPA issued a proposed rule in October 2009 and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received about 450,000 comments, which were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of this final rule.

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