Environmental Protection Agency To Get Tough On Emissions From US Airliners

xlibber via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take its first steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. airplanes. The announcement, made on Wednesday, acknowledges it will take some time to implement these regulations.

The ‘endangerment finding,’ released by the Obama administration, said it took "a preliminary but necessary first step to begin to address greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector, the highest-emitting category of transportation sources that the EPA has not yet addressed."

The EPA will first wait for a global carbon dioxide emissions standard to be developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) before adopting any specific rule. ICAO is a UN agency that issues guidelines for the aviation sector. The emissions standard is due to be released in February 2016.

The report found that “certain classes of engines used in aircraft contribute to the air pollution that causes climate change and endangers public health and welfare.” The report also said that greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes will increase by nearly 50 percent from 2010 to 2035. The EPA is required to develop rules and regulations, similar to the ones it did for cars and power plants.

Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told The New York Times: “Our No. 1 goal is to secure a meaningful international standard. There are sound environmental reasons to do so. An international policy would secure far more greenhouse gas emissions reductions than a domestic-only plan.”

Environmentalists remain skeptical on what real change the EPA announcement will make. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told the Washington Post that the emission requirements might only apply to newer aircrafts.

“The fear is that this will allow the continuation of older engines, because they can escape tougher requirements, and create a disincentive for any of these manufacturers to redesign their engines,” he added.

Aircraft emission standards are unlikely to be finalized until after the Obama administration ends. The EPA will collect feedback on their datasets from stakeholders over the next six months.

Image credit: xlibber via Flickr CC BY 2.0

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