EPA Moves To Limit Airline Emissions

Agency calls for reduction of greenhouse gases.

Boeing 737 takeoff

Boeing 737 takeoff

Photo: BriYYZ via Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday began the formal process of regulating the emissions of U.S. aircraft, saying the airline industry is one of the biggest remaining contributors to global warming.

The EPA issued what's known as an "endangerment finding" under the Clean Air Act as a precursor to regulations to limit heat-trapping emissions from airplane exhaust. The agency will collect public comments on the proposal for 60 days ahead of a scheduled hearing on August 11.

The proposal doesn't indicate specific reductions in emissions because the United States is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop worldwide standards, necessary for airplanes with global reach.

The EPA rule applies to commercial airplanes, but not general aviation, which is the subject of its own agency regulations aimed at eliminating leaded avgas. The gases targeted under the airline proposal are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

ICAO is expected to release its proposed emissions reductions by next February. The EPA would then finalize its decision on whether the emissions endanger public health shortly after. The rules would target the next generation of airliners but not those currently scheduled for production such as the Boeing 787-10 or Airbus A330-800neo.

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