The Obama Administration this week began to review findings submitted by the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) that show greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are harmful to humans and the environment, according to media reports.
Such a move could open the door to the agency imposing new environmental regulations on civil aviation, and potentially obliging them to reduce their emissions using a market-based mechanism or carbon offsets – approaches currently used in the EU or being developed by the UN, respectively.
The EPA announced last September that it would study whether to regulate carbon emissions from airplanes, something that Europe has been doing since early 2012 and which drew the ire of many countries including the US.
If successful, the move would extend the EPA’s piecemeal approach to regulating carbon emissions beyond motor vehicles, power plants and buildings.
It could also dictate how much of a role, if any, the US plays in finalising or implementing a global scheme to curb aircraft emissions, an endeavour currently being led by the UN’s civil aviation body ICAO.
“We don’t have any timeline for doing a rule,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“For any potential EPA domestic rulemaking to adopt equivalent international standards, (the) EPA would have to propose and then finalise an affirmative endangerment and cause or contribute findings for aircraft greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.
The EPA in 2009 found that vehicular emissions harmed human health by contributing to climate change, and in 2012 a court ruled that the agency had a similar duty under the US Clean Air Act to make a final determination regarding CO2 from airplanes.
According to experts, the rules are unlikely to come into force until 2018 at the earliest. However, those plans could be affected if, for example, the Democrats lose the presidency next year or if the EPA is sued by green groups as it was for failing to act quickly enough following similar court rulings.
This week’s EPA submission to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is the final step before the agency can publish a proposal and solicit input from the public, a process that could begin as soon as May.
And if President Obama wants to push his environmental regulations to other corners of the economy, polluting industries including manufacturing and fossil fuel production could be next in the EPA’s crosshairs.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org