Sheila McNulty EPA makes a start on regulating carbon emissions

As Congress continues to argue over how best to regulate carbon emissions, the Obama Administration is moving forward to do it on its own. Lisa Jackson, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has issued the timeline she expects to follow. She said no facility will be required to address greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permitting of new construction or modifications before 2011.

And, for the first half of 2011, only facilities that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions, will need to address their greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.

The EPA also is considering modifying the rule announced in September requiring large facilities, emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year, to obtain permits demonstrating they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. If modified, the EPA would likely raise that threshold substantially to reflect input provided during the public comment process.

Ms Jackson said the EPA does not intend to subject smaller facilities to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse gas emissions any sooner than 2016.

It is still unclear how many greenhouse gas emissions facilities will be permitted to emit and whether they will have to pay for them. But at least a timeline has been set. The writing is on the wall. It is a start.