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EPA Wants to Apply Clean Air Act to Airlines

Photo: The EPA announced the carbon emissions from aircraft should re regulated under the Clean Air Act. Photo credit: rikahi/
Photo: The EPA announced the carbon emissions from aircraft should re regulated under the Clean Air Act. Photo credit: rikahi/
June 17, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - More than 5,000 airplanes are in Tennessee, and at this point their carbon emissions are unregulated by the federal government. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse-gas emissions from airplanes should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Vera Pardee, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said it's about time.

"They are a very large feature of American transportation, and they're not regulated," Pardee said. "Trucks are, buses, every car, every passenger car is currently regulated, but the airline industry has been able to just sneak under the radar screen."

Pardee added that while the EPA's proposed action is welcome, it may be too little, too late in terms of the impact airplane carbon pollution has had on the environment. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, if commercial aviation were a country, it would rank seventh after Germany in terms of carbon emissions.

According to the EPA, while emissions should fall under the Clean Air Act, the agency plans to wait until the International Civil Aviation Organization sets a standard, which is likely only to apply to new aircraft that make up 5 percent of the world's total aircraft. Pardee said some airlines in the United States already are operating airplanes with some reduced carbon emissions.

"It is not that hard to get much more efficient," she said. "Even if we just got all the airlines up to the standard that's being implemented right now by the best airlines in the United States, we would cut carbon by more then 25 percent."

The EPA has invited the public and transportation industry to comment on the issue. The agency began regulating car pollution in the 1970s and recently announced it would regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN