Endangerment Finding Clears Path for GHG Regulation

 On December 7, 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed two important findings, clearing the way for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The "Endangerment Finding" clarifies EPA's belief that current and projected concentrations of six key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere pose a threat to human health and welfare. Further, the "Cause or Contribute Finding," associates the emissions of the six named GHGs from motor vehicles with the threat to public health and welfare. These actions enable EPA to move forward with the September 15, 2009 proposed GHG emissions standards for light duty vehicles, which will initiate the treatment of GHGs as "regulated pollutants" under the Clean Air Act.

These latest actions close out consideration by EPA of the public comments received during the period following the proposed endangerment and cause or contribute findings signed on April 17, 2009. This course was set in motion in 2007 by Massachusetts v. EPA, whereby the Supreme Court found that GHGs are air pollutants that are covered by the Clean Air Act. The Court charged EPA with determining whether GHGs from motor vehicles negatively contribute to public health. In July 2008, EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to initiate consideration of addressing climate change via the Clean Air Act. It received over 200,000 comments in response.

Although the recent findings do not directly trigger air permitting requirements under the PSD or Title V programs, the finalization of the proposed light-duty vehicle emissions standards will have that effect. To address the associated implications, EPA recently proposed the PSD and Title V GHG Tailoring Rule on September 30, 2009. EPA also finalized mandatory GHG reporting requirements and the first annual reports are now due in 2011 for 2010 emissions.

Trinity Consultants is supporting many companies in preparing for these new requirements. For assistance determining how these rules may affect your organization, please contact Trinity's Climate Change Team at ghg@trinityconsultants.com. You may also be interested in one of our upcoming Webinars on GHG-related issues, which can be viewed by clicking here.