Petitions Urge EPA to Regulate Aircraft Emissions
On Dec. 5, a
coalition of environmental groups, states and regional governments
filed petitions with EPA calling on the federal agency to curb carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from airplanes.
According to Earthjustice, the petitions are the first step in a
process that requires EPA to evaluate the current impacts of aircraft
emissions, seek public comment and develop rules to reduce aircraft
emissions or explain why it will not act. Earthjustice filed the
environmental groups' petition on behalf of Friends of the Earth,
Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Also filing petitions are the states of California, Connecticut, New
Jersey and New Mexico and the District of Columbia through their
attorneys general, the state of Pennsylvania through its Department of
Environmental Protection, New York City through its Corporation
Counsel, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District through
its District Counsel.
According to Earthjustice, aircraft emit huge amounts of carbon
dioxide (CO2), accounting for 12 percent of CO2 emissions from U.S.
transportation sources and three percent of the United States' total
Aircraft also emit nitrogen oxide (NOx), which contribute to the
formation of ozone, another greenhouse gas, Earthjustice stated.
Emissions of NOx at high altitudes result in greater concentrations of
ozone than ground-level emissions. Aircraft also emit water vapor at
high altitude that forms condensation trails or "contrails." Contrails
are visible cloud lines that form in cold, humid atmospheres and
contribute to the warming impacts of aircraft emissions. Moreover, the
persistent formation of contrails is associated with increased cirrus
cloud cover, which also warms the Earth's surface, Earthjustice stated.
In the petition to Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of EPA, the environmental groups said:
"[I]t is indisputable that greenhouse gas
emissions, including those from aircraft engines, are air pollutants
that are causing and contributing to global climate change, with severe
environmental consequences for the planet and all of its inhabitants.
EPA has broad discretion in promulgating regulations to limit
greenhouse gases from aviation. Moreover, numerous measures are
currently available that can reduce the global warming impacts of
aircraft emissions, and new technologies and other procedures under
development can be brought online to further reduce emissions within
reasonable timeframes. Consequently, petitioners request that EPA
undertake its mandatory duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from
The groups' petition asks the EPA to respond within 180 days and
initiate a formal process to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
from all U.S. certified aircraft and all foreign aircraft arriving in
or departing from U.S. airports.
The petition filed by the environmental groups can be accessed in PDF format at http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/petition-to-epa-on-aircraft-global-warming-emissions.pdf.