EPA to Regulate Airplane Emissions but Industry-Friendly International Standards May Be Its Guide

Friday, June 12, 2015
(photo: Mark Burban, Getty Images)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama has declared that emissions from passenger planes are a health hazard and should be regulated under the Clean Air Act (pdf), which until now hasn’t been applied to the airline industry.


It could be years before any new regulations take effect. The EPA is waiting until the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concludes its negotiations on the issue, which is scheduled to happen next year. It’s likely that no regulations would be finalized until Obama is out of office.


In addition, it hasn’t been decided to which planes the new regulations would apply. Under the stricter scenario, new admission standards would apply to any commercial jetliners built after a certain date, now expected to be Jan. 1, 2020. But by a looser rule, the standards would apply only to types of planes certified after the given date. So planes that had already been type-certified could continue to be manufactured under the older standards, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.


The problem with using ICAO regulations as a model, according to environmentalists, is the organization is too cozy with the industry and likely to produce weak rules of its own.


“Airplane carbon pollution is skyrocketing, but the EPA is still dodging responsibility for curbing this climate threat,” Vera Pardee, senior counsel and supervising lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The New York Times. “Passing the buck to an international organization that’s virtually run by the airline industry won’t protect our planet from these rapidly growing emissions.”


Some environmental groups have urged the EPA to adopt standards now and let the ICAO use them as a model.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

EPA Takes Step to Cut Emissions From Planes (by Jad Mouawad and Coral Davenport, New York Times)

EPA: Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Airplanes Are Dangerous To Human Life (by Samantha Page, ThinkProgress)

EPA Takes Crucial Step Toward Climate Rules For Airplanes (by Alex Guillen, Politico)

Supreme Court Upholds EPA’s Right to Regulate Power-Plant Emissions…with Minor Limitations (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Bumpier Plane Flights Predicted as Global Warming Disrupts High-Altitude Air Currents (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


anonamouse 9 years ago
It may be true that the president/EPA have declared carbon emissions a health hazard --- in the same sense that a loaded .45 is a health hazard, I suppose they are right. Will EPA regulate loaded .45s, too? The "health hazards" of Climate Change(tm) are what, exactly? More food output from plants? Warmer temps, which in the past have correlated with periods of relative peace and prosperity? But I'm being fatuous, just like the "health hazard" pronouncement. Here is my real question: Is Climate Change being used as a mask to misdirect attention from the aerial pollution being emitted (nearly every day around here), and not by commercial airliners, but by government (apparently) funded aircraft? Seem like a stretch? Anyone can look in the sky and see the pollution emitted by these planes --- and it's not CO2, folks. Clearly the emitters are not airliners because if they were, their "persistent contrails" would be bunched together since commercial traffic follows "highways in the sky"; the contrails so-called are instead always solo, though on occasion forming a familiar grid pattern. If you watch these "contrails" for 30 minutes to an hour, you will see that they don't dissipate like water-vapor trails usually do; they expand into a hazy swatch of dirty gray cloud. I bet the EPA never addresses this source of obvious air pollution. And so you would be justified in asking the obvious and highly pertinent question --- WTF?

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