Issue Date: September 1, 2008
A dozen states and the District of Columbia announced last week that they would sue EPA if it does not regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.
The states seek to expand a 2007 Supreme Court decision declaring carbon dioxide to be a pollutant that EPA can regulate under the Clean Air Act (C&EN, April 9, 2007, page 9). The states want EPA to regulate all greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, emitted by refiners.
The outcome of their request will have ramifications beyond the refining industry, foreshadowing whether other industries, including chemical manufacturing, will face mandatory limits on their greenhouse gas emissions.
The states are asking EPA to reconsider a regulation the agency issued in June that established new air pollution controls for oil refineries. That regulation did not include limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The states say EPA should have set ceilings on refineries' releases of these pollutants, given the high court's ruling. If EPA refuses to revisit the regulation, the states are poised to take their case to federal court.
New York is leading the challenge and is joined by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental group.
"We think the refining industry can reduce these emissions cost-effectively by, for example, reducing leaks from equipment," says Eric V. Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.