Starting this week, EPA begins implementing requirements for new construction and major expansions of large emitters of greenhouse gases, such as fossil fuel power plants, petroleum refineries, and cement production facilities. For the first time, stationary sources will be required to consider greenhouse gas emissions as part of the air permitting process. These new requirements stem from the US Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA which ruled that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Federal Clean Air Act.
In a separate, related development, EPA will begin to develop greenhouse gas emissions standards applicable to existing sources as a result of a December 2010 settlement reached in New York v. EPA. In that case, several states and environmental groups sued the EPA for its failure to impose greenhouse gas emissions standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries. These sources were targeted because they are the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, representing nearly 40 percent of such emissions. Under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, EPA has the authority to establish air pollutant emission standards based on the best systems available to control and reduce emissions.
Under the terms of the settlement, EPA will propose greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants in July 2011, and for refineries in December 2011. Final standards for the respective sources are expected to be issued in May 2012 and November 2012.