EPA Takes Another Key Step on Global Warming Pollution

Much like the recently announced clean vehicle rules that will take our fleet to an average of 60 miles per gallon in the decades to come, today’s new clean air guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will benefit the environment while unleashing new technlogies and giving industry and local governments much needed stability and guidance. 

EPA's guidance today kicks in for 2011, and will be a Clean Air Act victory leading to reductions in carbon pollution. (Photo from istock)

Known as “best available control technonology,” or BACT, it will provide the structure for new and updated plants to comply with necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring a proper balance is struck with keeping the economy growing.

It also shows how the Clean Air Act remains one of the important environmental laws on the books. Here’s how NWF’s Joe Mendelson put it:

“Today’s announcement shows the Clean Air Act remains a model for improving our environment using the latest technologies while spurring innovation and economic growth.  The measure will both clean our air while giving plants flexibility and the opportunity to take costs into account.”

I liked how Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies put it:

“EPA’s guidance will provide industry greater certainty, quicker permitting decisions and a smoother path toward greenhouse gas implementation. This should put to rest the exaggerated claims of some stakeholders that greenhouse gas permitting will have disastrous economic consequences.”

It may sound like we’re talking about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the controversial and largely unproven method of removing carbon emissions from coal plants.  It’s not.

In one case study included in the 97 page guidance, carbon capture is ruled out as a possibility for a refinery. Even if the technology would allow CCS at the facility, officials would be justified in rejecting it as a control strategy if the hypothetical facility were far from the nearest storage site and there were no pipeline to move the emissions there the document says.

“While CCS is a promising technology, EPA does not believe that at this time CCS will be a technically feasible [best available control technology, or BACT] option in certain cases,” EPA writes. “A permitting authority may conclude that CCS is not applicable to a particular source, and consequently not technically feasible, even if the type of equipment needed to accomplish the compression, capture, and storage of GHGs are determined to be generally available from commercial vendors.”

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Published: November 10, 2010