EPA zeroes in on greenhouse gases

EPA zeroes in on greenhouse gases

WASHINGTON. In the opening salvo of what is sure to be another contentious emissions battleground, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed finding on April 17 that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger the public health and welfare

WASHINGTON. In the opening salvo of what is sure to be another contentious emissions battleground, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed finding on April 17 that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger the public health and welfare.

The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

Though the EPA's finding covers both stationary and mobile sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it represents only the first stage in a long regulatory process, so it may be years before the trucking industry sees any impact , pointed out Doug Greenhaus, director of environment, health & safety for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

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WASHINGTON. In the opening salvo of what is sure to be another contentious emissions battleground, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed finding on April 17 that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger the public health and welfare.

The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

Though the EPA's finding covers both stationary and mobile sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it represents only the first stage in a long regulatory process, so it may be years before the trucking industry sees any impact , pointed out Doug Greenhaus, director of environment, health & safety for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

"This is only a first step," Greenhaus told FleetOwner at the American Truck Dealers 2009 Convention and Exposition (ATD is a division of NADA) being held here. "They must first declare specific greenhouse gases a 'health hazard' and must go through a long process of public hearings to get that declaration before they can actually regulate carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases."

But he stressed it's important to note that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks can only be accomplished by improving fuel economy. That's because gases such as carbon dioxide are actual the result of "clean combustion," so they can't be filtered out of the exhaust stream.

"It comes down to saving fuel through improved aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, etc." said Greenhaus. "That's where this is leading."

In fact, the EPA is also positioning its greenhouse gas reduction effort as a way to reduce foreign oil imports. "This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country's dependence on foreign oil," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a written statement. "In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem. The greenhouse gases that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act."

Jackson added that findings from a recent EPA study titled "Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone," also suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased drought
  • More heavy downpours and flooding
  • More frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires
  • Greater sea level rise
  • More intense storms
  • Harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.

In addition to threatening human health, the EPA said its analysis finds that climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change "presents significant national security challenges for the United States," EPA noted. Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water – which then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.

EPA pointed out the proposed endangerment finding now enters the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process the agency must undertake before issuing final findings and thus does not include any proposed regulations.

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