EPA Can Use NSPS to Effectively Reduce GHGs, While Supporting Clean Energy Action by States

Posted on March 28, 2011 by Mary Nichols

Despite a House Republican agenda to eviscerate EPA’s GHG authority, EPA is pushing forward with workable greenhouse gas reduction solutions.  EPA’s gradual phasing in of GHG permitting requirements for new facilities has provoked a vicious response from both heavy industry and political partisans, despite the requirements’ limited scope on only the largest pollution sources in the country – those that emit the equivalent of a burning railroad car of coal a day – and the common-sense requirements that these new facilities install the most efficient cost-effective technology available.

 

EPA has moved cautiously in deployingpotentially more important regulatory tool: New Source Performance Standards (NSPS).  Starting with the two largest sectors of emitters in the U.S., electricity generators and refineries, NSPS can create a “floor” of minimum standards for new and modified facilities, as well as create a flexible, state-based system to drive steady reductions from existing sources.  Importantly, reinvented NSPSstandards can capture the benefits of and build upon existing state GHG reduction programs, encourage other states to pursue or join in broader clean energy solutions, and produce greater environmental benefits (GHG reductions) than traditional NSPS.

 

In part to exploreand flesh out its new approach to NSPS, EPA held several “listening sessions” to hear from industry, air pollution control agencies, NGOs, and others in February and March of this year.  A recurring theme throughout these sessions was flexibility.  The most common stakeholder response has been thatEPA should set reasonably stringent 111(b) standards for new and modified sources.  At the same time, EPA should build upon its experience in allowing state emissions averaging and trading to propose guidelines for states to regulate existing sources.  These guidelines should include astraightforward method for states to show that alternative existing or proposed programs – whether or not they include individual numeric standards for individual NSPS sources– would achieve equivalent or greater emission reductions to traditional NSPS, individually applied.

 

Several states, including California, were quite vocal in these listening sessions, and for good reason.  As Seth Jaffe pointed out in his blog, emissions trading programs such as California’s cap-and-trade program under Assembly Bill 32 clearly provide the most cost-effective emission reductions.  Other states could propose clean energy programs, that achieve local economic development and energy security objectives, as well as emissions reductions, or they could be attracted to join existing regional initiatives.  Rather than adopt a one-size fits all NSPS, EPA can establish a stringent NSPS that allows states, their industries, and other stakeholders to work together to innovate and create unique solutions that serve multiple goals.



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