EPA’s complex pronouncement on aircraft emissions is issued; let the debate begin

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There is no greater challenge to aviation than finding an aircraft design and powerplant which will be considered GREEN. The recent European Union ETS proposal was greatly opposed by the FAA and much of the world in part because of its unilateral, extraterritorial approach but also due to its establishment of a carbon tax based on goals which appear to be unachievable. The below link signals the opening of a new round of debate which is led by an EPA proposal.

The Office of Transportation and Air Quality published the information paper which was transmitted to ICAO. The long web page set up to explain the proposal includes 22 links to other technical documents. It is beyond comprehension of most readers (and this writer); so it is useful to refer to the expert advocates who responded to the EPA’s initiative.

The environmental representatives criticize EPA for being late in addressing this “endangerment finding” .Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity says “We think there is absolutely no way that EPA will arrive at any conclusion other than that greenhouse gases from aircraft indeed endanger human health and welfare.” That’s an ominous analysis of where this process is headed.

One of the most knowledgeable experts on this subject, Nancy Young, vice president of environmental affairs at Airlines for America, hedges her bet in the following quote:

“We as airlines are very supportive of the work that ICAO’s doing…We’re very supportive of the fact that EPA and [Federal Aviation Administration] are actually significant leaders in the work that’s going on at ICAO.”

A4A neither criticizes nor supports EPA’s first step; so they can work with them as the ICAO technical review moves forward.

The manufacturers’ trade association’s spokesperson, Leslie Riegle, the group’s environmental policy director, is quoted as saying:

In order to harmonize standards throughout the world, we need to make sure the EPA does their part in starting this endangerment finding…Right now it’s just signaling the beginning of the process, which we’re totally aligned with….If they go a step above that, that’s exactly what we’re concerned with…It would put our manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the industry.”

A bit of line-drawing can be seen in the AIA comment.

The political responses are a little more blunt, as they are want to be. The Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Aviation Committee, Senator John Thune (R-SD) perceives that the EPA is moving towards their fellow traveler, the EU, and makes a partisan point of demarcation:

“I oppose any efforts by the Obama EPA to saddle American airline passengers with new taxes to reduce aviation emissions…The U.S. is already working with its international partners and aviation stakeholders to develop appropriate emissions standards. The EPA must not stray from this important collaborative effort or it will damage the competitiveness of U.S. carriers and unfairly harm American travelers.”

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a member of House Committees with jurisdiction over energy and environment issues, added:

“EPA’s eyeing of new standards for aircraft next year underscores the Obama administration’s relentless and extreme regulatory climate pursuit…This will add to the growing set of regulatory actions that will raise prices for the goods and services purchased by American consumers.”

The good news is that, perhaps appropriately, ICAO’s process grinds exceedingly slowly. Meetings and papers abound; so it is quite possible that the final draft on this complex issue will be years away.

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