EPA will give small businesses a break on emission caps

Mar 5, 2010
by DTN

The Obama administration will give small businesses a break on coming rules on carbon dioxide emissions but coal-fired power plants still face a crackdown, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said last Wednesday.

The Obama administration has pushed the EPA to begin regulating gases blamed for warming the planet, in part to force polluters to support a climate change bill that is stalled in the Senate.

EPA said late last year it would require coal plants, refineries and other heavy industrial facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons a year of greenhouse gases to obtain permits demonstrating they were using the best available technology to reduce emissions.

Jackson said the climate regulations would exempt factories emitting under 75,000 tons of carbon annually in 2011 and 2012.

“If you’re smaller than 75,000 tons, you will not need a permit for the next two years,” Jackson told reporters after a congressional hearing.

Jackson previously indicated she was open to raising the 25,000-ton threshold. That could give a break to small emitters like hospitals, schools, big buildings and even small industry like glass and metals.

The higher threshold, however, would not give a break to coal-burning power plants which emit 1 million tons a year or more of carbon dioxide.

Barry Worthington, head of the U.S. Energy Association, said a higher threshold could relieve requirements on a significant number of smaller businesses, but big power plants would still be hit.

EPA regulation of greenhouse gases faces opposition from many lawmakers in Congress. Many hope to block it.

Sen. John Rockefeller, D- WV, told reporters last Tuesday he is preparing legislation giving the EPA a twoyear time out on regulation of stationary sources of the pollution.

The White House has said it would be against any such moves by Congress and also still wants lawmakers to pass climate legislation. But the bill has had trouble getting off the ground in the Senate due to strong opposition in both major parties.

Since Democrats lost their Senate supermajority after the election in Massachusetts, prospects of passing a bill have dimmed. A Reuters poll found key senators doubted a climate bill could pass in this election year.

In February, Jackson wrote to Democratic senators from coal-producing states, saying EPA wouldn´t put new carbon reduction rules in place before 2011.

She also wrote that the EPA would not put regulations on smaller plants before 2016. The definition of “smaller” plants had been ambiguous, leaving businesses wondering if their emissions would eventually be regulated. But last Wednesday, Jackson said such a long-term threshold would be a “significantly higher number” than 25,000 tons. — DTN