EPA stops work on airline emissions standards

Air travel accounts for one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Agency’s move could violate federal environmental laws

Staff Report

A little more than a year after determining that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are a threat to public health, the EPA has stopped working on developing new standards for the air industry.

That’s not surprising, given that the Trump administration has sought to undermine nearly every rule set to limit heat-trapping pollution, but environmental advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity want to know more about the latest step backward by the EPA.

The organization has submitted a FOIA request to uncover all the records related to the decision. According to the EPA website, aircraft account for 12 percent of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions and 3 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. The agency apparently can’t keep up with administration’s push to censor EPA climate information, so the page with the original endangerment finding is still online here for now.

“It’s truly troubling that the Trump administration has stopped all work on reducing the airline industry’s skyrocketing carbon emissions,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “We just can’t tackle the climate crisis without confronting airplane carbon pollution. The EPA’s refusal to curb these emissions demonstrates a reckless disregard for climate threats like the monster storms we just saw in Florida and Texas.”

The July 2016 finding required the EPA to set limitations on airplane pollution under the Clean Air Act. This year, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed to aircraft emission standards, though they fall short of what the industry is projected to achieve regardless.

If the US does not set standards at least as stringent as those of the international community, US manufacturers must seek hard-to-get exemptions for their aircraft to fly outside of the US, unless their planes comply with the ICAO standards voluntarily.

In 2010, the Center and allies successfully sued to compel the EPA to determine whether airplane emissions endanger human health and welfare. The EPA finally made that determination in 2016.

“Every other country on earth has already agreed to airline emission standards that at least prevent serious backsliding,” said Pardee. “Trump’s destructive conduct threatens our planet and undermines American business interests and technological leadership.”

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