All posts tagged 'Endangerment Finding'

The DC Circuit Locks in USEPA's GHG Regulations - Sort Of

June 26, 2012 20:13
by J. Wylie Donald
It took a little over five years but USEPA's greenhouse gas regulation program is now firmly established - for the moment anyway.  The D.C. Circuit today rejected every challenge by numerous petitioners and intervenors to the whole raft of USEPA rules that followed from the critical Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, in 2007.  In Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency (attached), the D.C. Circuit considered arguments against the validity of The Endangerment Rule, Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(s) of the Clean Air Act, 74 Fed. Reg. 66,496 (Dec. 15, 2009), The Tailpipe Rule, Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, 75 Fed. Reg. 25,324 (May 7, 2010) The Tailoring Rule, Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 31, 514 (June 3, 2010), and The Timing Rule, Reconsideration of Interpretation of Regulations That Determine Pollutants Covered by Clean Air Act Permitting Programs, 75 Fed. Reg. 17,004 (Apr. 2, 2010),  as well as a general challenge to the USEPA's implementation of the Clean Air Act.  Each argument was rejected.  The Endangerment and Tailpipe Rules are not arbitrary and capricious, no petitioner (whether from industry or a state) had standing to attack the Timing and Tailoring Rules, and the USEPA's interpretation of the relevant Clean Air Act provisions "is unambiguously correct." The blogosphere is overwhelmed with commentary and analysis.  Rather than repeat what others have already said, we want to focus on just one small segment (pages 45-50) of the 82 page opinion:  standing for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA).  The court singled out the NAHB and the NOPA because they were the only industry petitioners that had standing to challenge the "result of the Tailpipe Rule, which had the effect of expanding the [Prevention of Significant Deterioration] PSD program to never-regulated sources."  A little background is in order.  Massachusetts v. EPA established that greenhouse gases could be regulated as air pollutants (within the meaning of the Clean Air Act) by USEPA.  The Endangerment Finding concluded that six "well-mixed" greenhouse gases emitted from motor vehicles contributed to the "climate change problem" and thus were "reasonably anticipated to endanger public health and welfare."  As a result, USEPA issued the Tailpipe Rule, which set GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks. Two sections of the Clean Air Act, the PSD program and the state permitting requirements under Title V, are triggered by the emission of "any air pollutant" (which USEPA has interpreted to mean: any regulated air pollutant).  Accordingly, once GHGs were regulated anywhere under the Clean Air Act (such as from tailpipes of motor vehicles), GHGs constituted an "air pollutant" within the meaning of the Act and stationary sources that emitted GHGs became subject to PSD and Title V permitting requirements.  The proverbial camel's nose was in the tent, and the camel followed post-haste. This approach to regulation was long-standing and had been relevant to rules promulgated in 1978, 1980 and 2002.  Since the Act provided for a basis for review only within 60 days of the promulgation of national regulations, challenges to USEPA's approach were very much time-barred, but with one very significant exception: "if such petition is based solely on grounds arising after such sixtieth day, ..." 42 U.S.C. 7607(b)(1). What this means is that an entity whose claim has recently ripened has standing to challenge the USEPA's approach.  Stated differently, entities that did not have standing in 1978, 1980 or 2002 because "their alleged injuries were only speculative" (such as NAHB and NOPA), may subsequently find they do have standing because their facilities are now regulated.  NOPA asserted that "[prior] to promulgation of the Tailpipe Rule, no member's facility had triggered PSD review by virtue of emissions of a non-criteria pollutant.  Now that greenhouse gases are a regulated non-criteria pollutant, many NOPA members will have to obtain PSD permits as [a] result of their facilities' emissions ..."  NAHB members who likewise were not subject to PSD requirements, were now certain to have to obtain PSD permits sometime in the future.  Accordingly, unlike other industry petitioners, NOPA and NAHB were found to have standing to challenge USEPA's "interpretation of the PSD permitting triggers ..."  This result is important.  Absent regulations like the Tailoring Rule, GHG regulation will be far-reaching and will bring in entities not previously subject to regulation.  Those entities will be entitled to challenge the regulation, as well as the methods USEPA uses to implement the regulations, even if those methods have been around for decades.  Thus, even though USEPA's GHG program sailed through this set of challenges, the door certainly is not closed to other challenges as GHG regulation expands.    20120626 Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. v EPA (D.C. Cir.).pdf (188.21 kb)

Carbon Dioxide | Climate Change Litigation | Greenhouse Gases | Legislation

A Primer on How Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Coming out of a Tailpipe Led to Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Coming out of a Stack

March 29, 2012 21:38
by J. Wylie Donald
Tuesday EPA issued its proposed rule (see related post) concerning new source performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions for electric power plants.  This all started when EPA refused to address greenhouse gas emissions coming out of cars.  Cars to power plants.  Some may be wondering how the camel got into this tent. The story begins of course with Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), where the Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases emitted in automobile exhaust were "air pollutants" within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.  This meant that EPA had to assess whether they caused or contributed to "air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health."  42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1). That assessment was completed in December 2009 and EPA concluded in the "Endangerment Finding" that "that six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations." 74 Fed. Reg. 66,496 (Dec. 15, 2009).  The Endangerment Finding did not impose any requirements, but it set the stage for regulation.  In September 2009 EPA and the US Department of Transportation issued proposed rules to establish greenhouse gas emission standards for certain motor vehicles.  The final rule was published on May 7, 2010 and went into effect on January 2, 2011.  75 Fed. Reg. 25324 (May 7, 2010).  The camel's nose was in the tent. And with that, EPA now had the prerequisite to set greenhouse gas emissions limits elsewhere.  At least that is EPA's position.  In a nutshell, stationary sources that emit 250 tons per year of "pollutants" are subject to the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program.  One element of the PSD program is that Best Available Control Technology (BACT) analysis is required for "each pollutant subject to regulation" under the Clean Air Act.  42 U.S.C. 7475(a)(4).  When the motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulation kicked in on January 2, 2011, greenhouse gases were subject to regulation, and therefore electric utilities emitting greenhouse gases were required to conduct a BACT analysis.  All of the camel was in the tent. All of these regulations (and others) were challenged.  Oral argument in those cases was heard before the D.C. Circuit at the end of February.  The regulated community awaits; who knows what the camel is thinking.   

Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Emissions | Regulation

Proposed Rule for Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Much Ado About Nothing?

March 29, 2012 21:20
by J. Wylie Donald
Wow!  Whether one likes the president or not, one must concede he's not afraid of leading. Just a little over seven months from the election he has drawn a line in the sand and proposed a rule that may fundamentally alter America's energy mix and takes a big step toward addressing carbon dioxide emissions.  Or it does nothing at all.  We are talking of course of Tuesday's announcement of new source performance standards for electricity plants.   In EPA's words: The EPA is proposing standards of performance that require that all new fossil fuel-fired EGUs meet an electricity-output-based emission rate of 1,000 lbCO2/MWh of electricity generated on a gross basis. This proposed standard is based on the demonstrated performance of natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units, which are currently in wide use throughout the country, and are likely to be the predominant fossil fuel-fired technology for new generation in the future.  EPA, Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (proposed rule) at 13 (Mar. 27, 2012) . So natural gas is in.  And what about the other fossil fuels?  New plants using coal or oil and even IGCC (integrated gas combined cycle) can be built but EPA expects that they will need to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to meet the standards.  Id. What brought about this groundbreaking new rule?  We set forth the legal foundation in a companion post.  Suffice to say here that EPA has moved a long way from the days before Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), when greenhouse gases were not Clean Air Act "pollutants."  But the non-regulatory drivers were perhaps even more significant.  All are aware of "fracking".  The use of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing in shales a mile beneath the surface has unleashed a torrent of natural gas.  As Forbes reports this month natural gas prices are half of what they were just a few years ago.  And the glut is not seen to be abating.  EPA has seized on this surfeit:  "technological developments and discoveries of abundant natural gas reserves have caused natural gas prices to decline precipitously in recent years and have secured those relatively low prices for the near-future."  Proposed Rule at 15.  As a result, "energy industry modeling forecasts uniformly predict that few, if any, new coal-fired power plants will be built in the foreseeable future."  Id.  In other words, the proposed regulation will have hardly any effect (even none) on coal-fired generation because no one was going to build those plants anyway.  "Our IPM modeling, using Energy Information Administration (EIA) reference case assumptions, projects that there will be no construction of new coal-fired generation without CCS by 2030. Under these assumptions, the proposed rule will not impose costs by 2030."  Id. at 17. We have read the commentary that this is the death of coal.  The cost of capturing and storing carbon dioxide, which will be the only way for a new coal plant to meet the new standard, is prohibitive. Accordingly, no coal plants will be built. According to EPA, however, coal-fired production was dead anyway because of the glut of natural gas.  Crystal balls are notoriously unreliable.  Some may remember that nuclear power was to make electricity too cheap to meter. But that didn't happen.  America built the largest man-made construction the world has ever seen (the interstate highway system) on the assumption that gasoline would always be abundant.  That was in error.  An oil embargo introduced Americans to long lines at the fuel pump and locking gas caps. Most forget that natural gas production peaked in the early 1970s, not to be exceeded again until over twenty years had passed.  The point is:  smart people took their best science and made plans.  But reality somehow did not get the message.  For what it is worth, here is our crystal ball on the demise of coal.  First, CCS technology is pertinent not only to coal. Combustion of natural gas emits carbon dioxide as well. The regulatory imperative will push natural gas plants to address their CO2, and coal will be able to take advantage of improvements in CCS technology. Second, the United States has been called the Saudi Arabia of coal. To expect that industry to dry up and blow away is naïve. Shale gas went from a vanishingly small fraction of the US energy mix to over 20% in five years or less. Innovation made this possible.  Just as ten years ago we could not imagine today's natural gas industry, we may not be able to recognize our coal resource in another ten years. Third, we thought it was fundamental that energy security depends on a mix of energy sources. It would be foolhardy to rely completely on natural gas.  It will only take one cold winter and a natural gas pipeline calamity to make coal seem like a sensible alternative.  Whether the proposed rule will actually have an impact depends on numerous factors.  All can agree, however, that climate change has been thrust back on the national agenda. 

Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Emissions | Greenhouse Gases | Regulation

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