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EPA plans to target biggest CO2 polluters

By Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Simon Lomax
Bloomberg News / September 3, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Only large industrial polluters would be subject to US regulation of greenhouse gases under a proposal developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental groups said.

A draft rule sent to the White House Aug. 31 would regulate carbon-dioxide emissions solely from major polluters such as utilities, manufacturers, and refineries, said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, and Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

Cathy Milbourn, EPA spokeswoman, confirmed that a draft rule on CO{-2} regulation was sent to the White House, but declined to describe it further.

The threshold for regulation is almost certainly going to be drawn at sources that emit more than 25,000 tons a year, Bookbinder said. The cutoff means bakeries, hospitals, and other smaller facilities would not be subject to emissions limits.

“While the Clean Air Act says that we’re going to have to regulate all the stationary sources starting at 250 tons a year, that doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons,’’ Bookbinder said.

Changing a threshold that is written into the Clean Air Act, even to protect small facilities from EPA regulation, might not stand up in court, said Roger Martella, a Washington-based partner at Sidley Austin LLP.

The agency’s “heart is in the right place and they’re trying to use all the tools at their disposal to keep it contained to larger sources,’’ said Martella, EPA general counsel during the Bush administration. “But it’s going to be a huge uphill battle, and it’s probably just a matter of time before the containment breaks and a court finds that in fact that all sources are included.’’