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EPA proposes permits for large polluters

Large permitting producers to account for their greenhouse gas emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday proposed a groundbreaking rule that would hold large permitting producers to account for their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson made the announcement in a keynote address earlier this week. The proposal calls for large facilities emitting at least 25,000 tonnes of GHGs to obtain construction and operating permits.

To receive the permits, the facilities would have to show that they were using the best control technologies and energy efficiency measures available.

The proposal, that would be instigated under the Clean Air Act, would cover power plants, refineries, and factories, and would presumably spur the adoption of cleaner power plant technologies with the construction of coal-fired plants involving more red tape.

Regions such as Canada's most populated province, Ontario, have already committed to eliminate all coal-fired plants by 2014.

The EPA has also been putting the squeeze on upstream coal production. Jackson's proposal came in the same week that the EPA decided to put 79 pending permits for Appalachian coal-mining operations through an enhanced review process. This angered the National Mining Association, which had already expressed concern over the agency's moratorium on coal-mining permits, announced in March.

Six GHGs are covered by the proposal: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflurocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride.

This administration's EPA is markedly different to the previous one. Under the Bush White House, the EPA was loath to regulate GHGs, especially carbon dioxide.

The agency is now seeking public comment on its previous interpretation of when GHGs, including carbon dioxide, are covered under the Clean Air Act.

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