On May 13, the Environmental Protection Agency released new rules on greenhouse-gas emissions for power plants, factories and oil refineries — any big facility, really that emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, or any of several other classes of chemicals.
The agency doesn’t impose immediate changes on these facilities. Indeed, some manufacturers might see no changes for the foreseeable future. The new regulation just identifies which new or upgraded facilities would have to install “best available control technologies” to limit their emission of these pollutants.
The new rule affects a sector of the economy that collectively accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.
Existing facilities can continue to spew greenhouse gases at current levels. Only new stationary sources — so named because they are effectively rooted to the ground — must employ the best control technologies if they annually would release greenhouse gases having a global-warming capacity equivalent to 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2. Existing stationary sources would come under the new rule if and only if they modernized or expanded their operations in ways that would boost their greenhouse emissions by another 75,000 tons per year.
The rule, which is being issued under the Clean Air Act, adds greenhouse gases to a suite of long-limited pollutants (such as lead, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) for which big new facilities must already employ best available control technologies.
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