The Obama EPA is explicitly saying for the first time that a pending greenhouse gas (GHG) vehicle emissions rule, when finalized, will define carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs as regulated under the Clean Air Act and will therefore trigger mandates for new and modified power plants and other stationary sources to limit their GHGs.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson makes the statement in an Aug. 12 reply to an environmentalist petition asking her to reject a power plant air permit issued by Kentucky regulators that did not require CO2 limits. EPA does not require the permit at issue to include CO2 but does suggest that CO2 limits in power plant permits could be required as soon as March of next year, when EPA is expected to finalize the vehicle GHG rule.
That vehicle rulemaking will also likely moot a controversial 2008 memo issued by former Bush EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson saying power plant permits need not include GHG limits. Jackson has taken steps to formally reconsider the Johnson memo and that review is still underway.
One environmentalist attorney says the agency’s position is a clear break from the Bush EPA and a strong signal that the Obama administration is on the fast track to regulate GHGs. Still, the agency says until it issues the vehicle rule, Clean Air Act prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permits need not include GHG limits.
While environmentalists lost on the substance of the issue in the challenge, they are pleased that EPA is agreeing with their long-held position that the vehicle GHG rule will trigger other GHG permit requirements, particularly for the PSD permit program, which includes the unique requirement to capture any pollutant regulated by any other provision of the statute.
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