EPA determines aircraft GHG emissions contribute to climate change

Agency expects moving forward on standards as least as stringent as ICAO’s standards

Posted July 27, 2016

EPA finalized a determination under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from certain types of aircraft engines contribute to the releases that cause climate change and endangers Americans’ health and the environment.

The findings are for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), all of which contribute to GHG emissions that represents the largest driver of human-caused climate change. These particular GHGs come primarily from engines used on large commercial jets.

“Addressing pollution from aircraft is an important element of U.S. efforts to address climate change. Aircraft are the third largest contributor to GHG emissions in the U.S. transportation sector, and these emissions are expected to increase in the future,” said Janet McCabe, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. “EPA has already set effective GHG standards for cars and trucks and any future aircraft engine standards will also provide important climate and public health benefits.”

The agency is not issuing emissions standards for aircraft engines in this action. The final endangerment and contribution findings for aircraft engine GHG emissions are an important step that EPA must take prior to adopting domestic GHG engine standards.

EPA anticipates that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will formally adopt its environmental committee’s February 2016 agreement on international aircraft CO2 standards in March 2017. EPA anticipates moving forward on standards that would be at least as stringent as ICAO’s standards.

The rulemaking process for aircraft GHG emissions will provide opportunities for industry, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties to provide their input through public review and comment.

According to EPA, U.S. aircraft emit roughly 12 percent of GHG emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and 29 percent of GHG emissions from all aircraft globally. Under the CAA, EPA consults with the Federal Aviation Administration as it develops aircraft engine emissions standards. By law, any standards EPA sets must not cause a significant increase in noise or adversely affect safety.

These findings do not apply to small piston-engine planes (the type of plane often used for recreational purposes), or to military aircraft.


 

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