Planemaker backs Trump’s contentious emissions reforms

written by Hannah Dowling | February 18, 2021
Air New Zealand ZK-NZE Boeing 787-9 crosses over Brisbane with contrails. (Michael Marston)
Air New Zealand ZK-NZE Boeing 787-9 crosses over Brisbane with contrails. (Michael Marston)

US planemaker Boeing has officially thrown its support behind contentious reforms over fuel efficiency standards in new airplanes finalised by the Trump administration in its final days.

The standards outlined in the reforms have been largely criticised by a dozen US states as well as the new Biden administration as being too lenient, and largely maintaining the status quo of current aircraft emissions.

Boeing has reportedly asked a US appeals court in Washington for permission to intervene on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently being sued by 12 states, DC and three environmental groups over its decision to finalise the standards regulating emissions from airplanes, as proposed under Trump.

Boeing argued in its statement that is “essential” for rules imposed on the industry to be “reasonably achievable, given the billions of dollars it costs to design, build, and certify new airplanes”.

“Attempts to overturn regulation directly aligned with successful co-operative international efforts to combat climate change, supported by more than 190 countries, will only discourage future international agreements,” Boeing said.

In August, the plaintiffs argued that the emissions rules proposed by the EPA were “entirely insufficient”, and should those standards stay as is, the environmental impact will be “negligible”.

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

California Attorney-General Xavier Becerra, representing the 12 states and environmental groups, went so far as to call the proposal a “sham” and said enforcing it would be the “equivalent of doing nothing”.

In January, the EPA, still working under the Trump administration, admitted that the standards it had set would not result in emissions reductions from the aviation industry, and did not expect it would “cause manufacturers to make technical improvements to their airplanes that would not have occurred” otherwise.

The Environmental Defense Fund has said the EPA’s “do-nothing rule” is “totally inadequate in light of the climate crisis”.

The new rules apply to new-type designs as of January 2020 and to in-production airplanes or those with amended type certificates starting in 2028.

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