Engineering News

EPA Extends Pattern of Delays by Postponing GHG Proposal
November 29, 2011

Extending a pattern of delays in setting new rules, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 21 announced it would postpone its landmark proposal for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.

The postponement is just the latest in a string of delays, including one that affected a similar rule intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA also extended the deadline for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule, or utility MACT rule, and President Barack Obama requested the EPA abandon its proposal to strengthen the nation's air quality standard for ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog.

The EPA cited a compressed schedule as the reason for delaying first-ever standards for greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries. "EPA expects to need more time to complete work on greenhouse gas pollution standards for oil refineries, and is working with the litigants to develop a new schedule to replace the current date of mid-December for a rule proposal," the EPA said in an emailed statement.

Bracewell & Giuliani partner Lisa Jaeger, who focuses on environmental law, chalked up the delay to an agency with an over-ambitious agenda.

"There is indeed a pattern of delays in rulemakings. In the past couple of years, EPA has repeatedly painted itself into a corner by agreeing to overly aggressive deadlines to draft rules for complicated industrial sectors," Jaeger said in a Nov. 22 email. "EPA has shortsightedly failed to build in time for data gathering and analysis, serious interaction with the regulated community, and adequate consideration of the bottom-line impact the regulations have on companies trying to survive challenging economic times." Jaeger served in the EPA as acting general counsel and deputy general counsel during the George W. Bush administration.

The complexity of setting new rules and the need to properly respond to and account for industry concerns also appeared to be the reason that the EPA delayed the utility MACT rule. In accounting for the delay, the agency said it needed more time to respond to 960,000 comments.

As for the ozone rule, the EPA decided to reconsider the regulation in 2013, with Obama citing the importance of "reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover."

Whatever the reason behind the delays, some have questioned how the EPA's hesitation will affect Obama's political base. In response to the decision to postpone the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries, the Natural Resources Defense Council signaled its dismay.

"We are disappointed to learn that the agency expects not to meet the schedule negotiated to remedy this situation. We will be discussing this with the government and deciding on the best course of action," NRDC Director of Climate Programs Dave Hawkins said in a Nov. 22 emailed statement.

Source: SNL Power Daily with Market Report

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