July 21, 2008 12:30 PM, EDT

EPA Requests More Input on Greenhouse Gases

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the July 21 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a nearly 600-page request for public comment on whether it should use existing law to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a decision one trucking official said was a way to further delay any new regulations until after President Bush leaves office.

“They want to buy time,” said Glen Kedzie, vice president of environmental affairs for American Trucking Associations.

Kedzie said the massive request for comment — on nearly every aspect of reducing carbon emissions — will provide “an avalanche” of comments and going through them “will give them more than enough time to punt to the next Congress and the next administration.”

In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide emissions could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. However, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said earlier this month his agency would seeking public comment because he believed any regulations needed to be supported by a new law.

“The potential regulations of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority,” Johnson told reporters July 11. “If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job. It is really at the feet of Congress.”

Congressional Democrats ex-pressed disappointment with EPA’s decision.

“The Bush administration has essentially ordered EPA to do nothing to address the danger of global warming,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Today’s sanitized and censored global-warming proposal is a shadow of what the scientific experts say is needed to save the planet,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“The White House has taken an earnest attempt by their own climate experts to respond to the Supreme Court’s mandate to address global-warming pollution and turned it into a Frankenstein’s monster,” Markey said.

Much of EPA’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking is dedicated to looking at ways different sectors of the economy generate carbon dioxide, and how those emissions can be reduced.

For example, the 17-page section on heavy-duty trucks seeks comments on areas including engine efficiency, trailer design, driving speed and idling.

“Every time they say something, they want comments on it,” Kedzie said. “So you can only imagine how many comments, and how much cover, they are going to get on this. They could probably get 10 years [of delay] out of this by just saying ‘We’re still reviewing the comments.’”

EPA did say in its proposal that it sees “a potential for up to a 40% reduction in [greenhouse gas] emissions from a typical heavy-duty truck in the 2015 timeframe, with greater reductions possible looking beyond 2015 through improvements in the truck and engine.”

Sixty percent of that reduction, EPA said, would come from improvements in truck design, 30% from engine improvements and 10% from operational improvements like reducing speed and idling time.

However, Kedzie said the document provides “no real solutions.” He added there was a chance the next president could start the process over.

“There’s a chance this whole thing might be scrapped,” he said.