Federal Government Stalls Clean Air Act Greenhouse Gas Regulation While California Forges Forward


California has been forging ahead with many types of climate change regulations that address Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from land uses, vehicle use, construction and stationary sources. For example, the State has regulated GHGs through California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in accordance with SB 97, and regulated the interaction between vehicle use and land use development in accordance with SB 375. Most of these State regulations originate from AB 32, which requires the State to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by no later than 2002. AB 32 also required the creation of a GHG registry for stationary sources (industry). Recently, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued mandatory GHG requirements in an air pollution permit for a local power plant.

In contrast to the State, federal regulation of GHGs emissions from stationary sources through the Clean Air Act (CAA) has stalled. You may recall that over two years ago the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant subject to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation under the Clean Air Act. Environmental advocates have been criticizing the EPA for delaying GHG regulations of stationary sources at the federal level, according to the New York Times. Now, federal legislators are also attempting to delay EPA regulations for a set amount of time. Both Senator Jay Rockefeller (D, W. Va.) and Representative Nick Randall (D, Wa.) have introduced legislation in the Senate and the House, respectively, that would delay the EPA from regulating GHGs emitted from stationary sources (such as coal-fired power plants) for two years. But not all legislators are in support of such bills. The Washington Post recently reported that Robert C. Byrd, a democrat of West Virginia and colleague of Jay Rockefeller, will not support Rockefeller’s proposed bill. Byrd believes that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's recent letter stating that the EPA will delay, for a year, the application of stronger standards requiring increased efficiency or reduced pollution at large power plants and factories is enough. The proposed Senate and House bills are likely an attempt to delay EPA regulations that would require major GHG stationary sources to implement "best available control technology” pollution control measures, even if these measures would render construction of new plants cost-prohibitive.

Despite California's progress in regulating GHGs, it also faces a potential suspension of GHG regulation through an initiative measure to suspend AB 32, as we discussed in this post. Proponents of the legislation stalling GHG regulation at the Federal level and the initiative stalling it at the state level both cite to economic concerns as the purpose of these delays.

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