(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
which has proposed carbon dioxide limits on coal-fired power
plants, is nearing a decision on whether to regulate aircraft
emissions in response to global warming.
The federal agency is scheduled to issue a determination
this month on burning jet fuel and its potential danger to human
health by increasing the risks of climate change.
Such a finding “may open the door for meaningful
regulation,” said Joel Finkelstein, a spokesman for Climate
Advisers, a Washington-based group that advocates for carbon
limits. He said a decision could come as soon as this week and
he believes the agency will conclude that aircraft emissions
endanger the climate.
Environmental groups such as Oceana, Friends of the Earth,
the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice petitioned
the agency in 2007 to take action. The EPA issued a finding in
2009 that greenhouse gases were a danger to public health, part
of the agency’s effort to establish fuel-economy standards for
automobiles and trucks. The same finding was used last year in
proposing regulations for power-plant emissions.
“We believe the EPA will conclude that airplane carbon
emissions are a threat to human health and welfare,” Patrick
Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity,
said in an e-mail. “As with power-plant climate pollution, the
science permits no other conclusion.”
Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for EPA, declined to comment on
the agency’s plans. The agency sent its proposal to the White
House for review in March and on its website said it planned to
publish the decision this month.
Airlines for America, the main lobby group for the
industry, said the EPA standard should be consistent with a
global emissions goal being developed by the International Civil
“As aviation is a global industry, with airlines and
aircraft operators operating internationally and aircraft
manufacturers selling their aircraft in international markets,
it is critical that aircraft emissions standards continue to be
agreed at the international level,” Vaughn Jennings, a
spokesman for the group, said in an e-mail.
On its website, the group said airlines used 8 percent less
fuel from 2000 through last year, producing an 8 percent cut in
carbon emissions. In the same period, jet fuel costs more than
tripled, it said.
The American Sustainable Business Council, which says it
represents over 200,000 businesses, in a May 18 letter to the
EPA urged it to adopt new emissions rules that the aviation
industry accounts for about “5 percent of global climate
pollution and is one of the world’s fastest growing sources of
global warming pollution.”
Sarah Burt, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, said
environmental groups were concerned that the EPA’s rule may not
be tough enough if the agency ties it to the standard being
developed by ICAO.
“The concern is that what ICAO is going to do will be
woefully insufficient,” Burt said.
ICAO anticipates its standard may be completed in the first
part of 2016, she said.
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