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In late August, EPA issued its proposed rule governing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from newly manufactured aircraft. The long-awaited rule follows EPA's finding that GHG emissions from certain classes of aircraft engines “cause or contribute” to climate change, which was issued in 2016 towards the end of former President Obama's second term, and a January 2020 notice of intent to sue the EPA for delaying subsequent rulemaking that was issued by several environmental groups.

The proposed rule mirrors the rules adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, in 2017. The alignment with the ICAO rules was a key goal of US aircraft manufacturers since it allows them to continue to be competitive within the international marketplace.

Key components of the proposed rule are as follows:

  • Applies to two categories of civil aircraft: 1) subsonic jet aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) > 5,700 kg (~12,566 lbs) and 2) subsonic propeller-driven aircraft with MTOM > 8,618 kg (~19,000 lbs)
  • Fuel efficiency certification requirement applies retroactively to “new type” aircraft designs for which a Federal Aviation Industry (FAA) certification was applied for on or after 1/1/2020, with an extension to 1/1/2023 for a subset of smaller aircraft
  • Fuel efficiency certification requirement applies to “in-production type” aircraft designs that operate under an existing FAA certification starting in 2028
  • Does not apply to existing in-service aircraft manufactured prior to the above certification deadlines
  • The form of the GHG standard is a fuel efficiency metric represented by a series of mathematical equations that are based on aircraft MTOM, with each equation applying to specific aircraft primarily based on its engine type (i.e., jet vs propeller), MTOM, and FAA certification date
  • Compliance with the applicable standard is then demonstrated via a certification accounting for the specific air range (SAR) of the aircraft/engine combination and a standard measure of fuselage size referred to as the reference geometric factor (RGF)
  • Contains annual reporting requirement for each aircraft design type and sub-model that includes FAA certification information, number of engines, production volume for the prior calendar year, certified MTOM, and a comparison of the fuel efficiency metric vs the applicable standard

Environmental groups have largely criticized the rule as having been developed by the aircraft manufacturers themselves and to require little to no further reductions in GHG emissions over those already realized by the manufacturers.

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted to EPA by 10/19/2020. If you have any questions about this proposed rulemaking, please reach out to Kirk Lowery at 614.433.0733 or Jim Lyons at 916.273.5138.