EPA moves to regulate airplane emissions

June 29, 2015

In part of the Obama administration's bold attempt to cut carbon emissions by over 30 percent, the Environmental Protection Agency is now moving to regulate airplane emissions.

This past Wednesday, President Obama, alongside the EPA, released a new set of scientific findings that indicate that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are health risks. According to the 194 page study, they are aiming to take "a preliminary but necessary first step to begin to address greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector, the highest-emitting category of transportation sources that the EPA has not yet addressed."

The EPA is currently collaborating with the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop and implement a worldwide emissions standard for the aviation industry. This emissions standard is expected to be finalized and released in early 2016, and the ICAO aims to have it adopted later that same year. 

While on the surface, this sounds like a strong move against excessive aviation-related emissions, it's worth noting that as is, the standards will only apply to new aircraft designs, allowing airlines to continue using current planes as they transition into newer ones. Some environmental groups worry that this change will be too slow, as some planes remain in service for anywhere from 20 to 30 years.  

The EPA and ICAO are pushing these regulations forward in part to create a global standard for an industry where a given company could be operating in as many as 100 different countries at one time.

This is the latest move by the EPA in interpreting the Clean Air Act to regulate the transportation and power sectors, and comes after a 2012 court ruling that granted the organization the authority to regulate those emissions. 

Regardless of how the situation develops, environmental consultants can help companies better understand and comply with EPA regulations.