The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday announced that the agency is in the process of adopting its final greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards that will apply to certain new commercial airplanes manufactured in the US, including all new large passenger planes and commercial jets.
The rule will apply to “new-type design airplanes” whenever the rule becomes effective and only to “in-production airplanes on or after January 1, 2028.” As such, already made, in-use, and in-production aircraft are exempt from the standards. Additionally, the new standards do not apply to military aircraft.
In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approved global, industry-wide carbon dioxide emissions standards. The EPA has worked closely with the ICAO to “set a timeframe for initiating the US domestic regulatory process for addressing GHG emissions from aircraft” since 2014. Under former President Barack Obama, the agency in 2016 announced its official finding that GHG emitted as a result of airplane emissions “cause or contribute to air pollution that may be reasonably be anticipated to endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
The EPA’s first-of-their-kind standards—aimed specifically at six well-mixed GHGs in the atmosphere—will help align the US with the rules already set by the international community. Once published in the Federal Register, the EPA will have solidified its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate such emissions within the US.
The action also “assures the worldwide acceptance of US manufactured airplanes and airplane engines.” Without the rule, overseas nations could possibly ban the use of any American-made airplane not meeting ICAO standards from entering their airspace. Consequently, without the rule, US aircraft manufacturers would have been forced to seek certification outside the US, and outside the scope of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to market their products for international operation.
According to the EPA, “the US transportation sector is a significant contributor to total US anthropogenic GHG emissions” and “aircraft remain the single largest GHG-emitting transportation source not yet subject to GHG standards in the US.” The EPA published its proposed standards in August 2020. In October 2020, a coalition of 11 states sent a letter to the EPA urging the agency to strengthen its proposed standards.
Airlines for America, an industry trade organization, applauded the announcement. In contrast, the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement, called the rule “totally inadequate in light of the climate crisis.” International Counsel Annie Petsonk praised the agency’s acknowledgment of the “dangers to public health and the environment posed by aviation’s global warming pollution,” but emphasized that “[the] EPA’s new rule fails to address the environmental injustice of high toxic and particulate pollution around airports, which disproportionately affects airport workers and local communities downwind.”
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