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‘Entirely insufficient’: Calls made to strengthen US proposed aircraft emission regulations

written by Hannah Dowling | October 20, 2020
Airbus A380 landing at LAX (Source: Rob Finlayson)

A group made up of 11 US states and Washington, DC, has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further strengthen the first-ever proposed standards for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in the US.

The environmental protection body released its proposed emission rules for aircraft in July, which have been largely criticised as having a “negligible” impact, with the regulations remaining largely consistent with the current status quo.

According to the state attorneys-general led by California and representing all 11 states and the country’s capital, the emissions rules proposed by EPA in July were “entirely insufficient”.

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California Attorney-General Xavier Becerra went so far as to call the proposal a “sham” and said enforcing it would be the “equivalent of doing nothing”.

The EPA said in July when it announced the proposed requirements that the changes would apply to new-type designs as of January 2020, and to currently in-production airplanes or those with amended type certificates starting in 2028. 

In 2016, the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed upon a series of global emissions standards, which major planemakers Boeing and Airbus have already backed.

As such, the new EPA-proposed emission regulations do no more than align the US with these ICAO standards, despite the fact that, for the most part, aircraft are already compliant.

The states that have spoken out against these proposed standards include Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Massachusetts.

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“The EPA can and must adopt effective standards to substantially reduce these emissions, mitigate existing climate harms, and avoid the worst economic and public health outcomes of an unmitigated climate crisis,” the states said in a letter.

They said the EPA proposal would “lag existing technology by more than 10 years and would result in no GHG reductions at all compared to business-as-usual”.

Other analysts who have examined that proposed regulations agree that the enforcement of EPA’s current proposal will not see the US aviation industry reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at all.

Aircraft currently account for 12 per cent of all US transportation greenhouse gas emissions and 3 per cent of total US emissions, and are the largest source of transportation greenhouse gas emissions not subject to rules.

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