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EPA to regulate greenhouse gases

World Cement,

Under authorisation from President Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency, has announced rules that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from major sources of pollution.

The legislation will affect industrial plants that emit at least 25 000 tpa of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, this amount is equivalent to the annual emissions from about 2200 homes. The threshold is 100 times higher than that required for other types of pollutants like sulfur dioxide, which have more acute health and environmental effects.

New plants or facilities that make major modifications will now be required to install the best available control technology for limiting emissions and improving efficiency.

Currently, these large industries are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions - mainly CO2 from fossil fuels - released in the US.

The proposal is the government’s first step toward regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources. It follows the emissions standards announced by the Obama administration earlier this year concerning cars and trucks. These regulations, which will take effect in Spring 2010, have encouraged the EPA to control greenhouse gases from large industries as well.

The announcement came as Senate Democrats unveiled legislation that demands steep reductions in emissions from industrial pollution sources and offers incentives to build cleaner power plants, including ones that burn natural gas. This is in preparation for the United Nations summit in Copenhagen in December.

The EPA proposal renews pressure on the Senate to advance climate-change legislation that would cap the annual emissions of power plants, refineries and cement plants.

Industry groups immediately retaliated, challenging the EPA’s authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases and questioning its power to lower the threshold for regulation. They are also accusing the EPA is skirting the law, as the Clean Air Act typically covers any facility releasing more than 250 tpa of a pollutant. That threshold would require more facilities to fall under the new regulations. Ms Jackson, EPA Administrator, said the proposed rule had been written to exempt small businesses, farms, large office buildings and other relatively small sources of carbon dioxide emissions. But under the rule proposed, the EPA would assume authority for the greenhouse gas emissions of the 14 000 big industrial facilities that produce most of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, according to Ms Jackson, most of these were already subject to clean-air permitting requirements because they emit other pollutants.

The proposal will now go through several months of drafting and public comment.

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