The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday reiterated that its crackdown on greenhouse gases (GHG) will not be immediate and that the agency still plans on taking a phased-in approach.

Under a final decision issued Monday, the EPA said no stationary sources will be required to get Clean Air Act (CAA) permits that cover GHGs before January 2011. The agency said it “has pledged to take sensible steps” to address the billions of tons of GHG pollution that threaten Americans’ health and welfare, and is providing time for large industrial facilities and state governments to put in place cost-effective, innovative technologies to control and reduce carbon pollution.

“This is a common sense plan for phasing in the protections of the Clean Air Act. It gives large facilities the time they need to innovate, governments the time to prepare to cut greenhouse gases and it ensures that we don’t push this problem off to our children and grandchildren,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “With a clear process in place, it’s now time for American innovators and entrepreneurs to go to work and lead us into the clean energy economy of the future.”

Monday’s action determines that CAA construction and operating permit requirements for the largest emitting facilities will begin when the first national rule controlling GHGs takes effect. If finalized as proposed, the rule limiting GHG emissions for cars and light trucks would trigger these requirements in January 2011 — the earliest that model year 2012 vehicles meeting the standards can be sold in the United States. The agency expects to issue final vehicle GHG standards shortly.

EPA has committed to focusing its GHG permitting requirements on the largest sources. The agency said it will make a decision later this spring on the amount of GHGs facilities can emit before having to include limits for these emissions in their permits.

Monday’s move is the final step in EPA’s reconsideration of the Dec. 18, 2008 memorandum entitled “EPA’s Interpretation of Regulations that Determine Pollutants Covered by Federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Permit Program.” The final action clarifies when GHGs and other pollutants are covered under CAA permitting programs.

A number of states are against the controversial endangerment finding that triggers the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions under the CAA (see Daily GPI, March 22). Some state officials worry that the EPA is extending its authority too aggressively and in a manner that harms the interests of states.

EPA’s endangerment finding sets the stage for the agency to stringently regulate GHG emissions even if Congress fails to enact climate change legislation (see Daily GPI, Dec. 8, 2009).

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