EPA Nears Decision on Aircraft Emissions’ Risk to Climate

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

which has proposed carbon dioxide limits on coal-fired power

plants, is nearing a decision on whether to regulate aircraft

emissions in response to global warming.

The federal agency is scheduled to issue a determination

this month on burning jet fuel and its potential danger to human

health by increasing the risks of climate change.

Such a finding “may open the door for meaningful

regulation,” said Joel Finkelstein, a spokesman for Climate

Advisers, a Washington-based group that advocates for carbon

limits. He said a decision could come as soon as this week and

he believes the agency will conclude that aircraft emissions

endanger the climate.

Environmental groups such as Oceana, Friends of the Earth,

the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice petitioned

the agency in 2007 to take action. The EPA issued a finding in

2009 that greenhouse gases were a danger to public health, part

of the agency’s effort to establish fuel-economy standards for

automobiles and trucks. The same finding was used last year in

proposing regulations for power-plant emissions.

Health Threat

“We believe the EPA will conclude that airplane carbon

emissions are a threat to human health and welfare,” Patrick

Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity,

said in an e-mail. “As with power-plant climate pollution, the

science permits no other conclusion.”

Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for EPA, declined to comment on

the agency’s plans. The agency sent its proposal to the White

House for review in March and on its website said it planned to

publish the decision this month.

Airlines for America, the main lobby group for the

industry, said the EPA standard should be consistent with a

global emissions goal being developed by the International Civil

Aviation Organization.

“As aviation is a global industry, with airlines and

aircraft operators operating internationally and aircraft

manufacturers selling their aircraft in international markets,

it is critical that aircraft emissions standards continue to be

agreed at the international level,” Vaughn Jennings, a

spokesman for the group, said in an e-mail.

Emissions Reduced

On its website, the group said airlines used 8 percent less

fuel from 2000 through last year, producing an 8 percent cut in

carbon emissions. In the same period, jet fuel costs more than

tripled, it said.

The American Sustainable Business Council, which says it

represents over 200,000 businesses, in a May 18 letter to the

EPA urged it to adopt new emissions rules that the aviation

industry accounts for about “5 percent of global climate

pollution and is one of the world’s fastest growing sources of

global warming pollution.”

Sarah Burt, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, said

environmental groups were concerned that the EPA’s rule may not

be tough enough if the agency ties it to the standard being

developed by ICAO.

“The concern is that what ICAO is going to do will be

woefully insufficient,” Burt said.

ICAO anticipates its standard may be completed in the first

part of 2016, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story:

Jim Snyder in Washington at


To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Jon Morgan at


Steve Geimann

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