Federal Judge: EPA Must Rule on Airplanes Creating Greenhouse Gases

A U.S. district court recently ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must formally determine in accordance with the Clean Air Act whether greenhouse gases from airplanes endanger human health.

That means new air pollution standards could be coming for the airline industry.

Already the EPA proposed new standards for 737s, 747s, and 767s covering nitrogen oxide emissions, which can cause lung diseases.

The EPA had submitted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

The United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] has already ratified similar standards, which seek to cut ground-level nitrogen oxide emissions by an estimated 100,000 tons in the US by 2030.

If the EPA adopts these rules, the cuts would be phased in over the next two years and apply to all new aircraft engines beginning in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. in his ruling noted that Congress in its legislation intended to mandate a certain outcomethe regulation of harmful aircraft emissions. The judge added that allowing the EPA to defer whether climate pollutants from aircraft are harmful to humans would allow & EPA to shirk its duty to combat air pollution.

The environmental groups said in a joint statement that they had petitioned the EPA to regulate climate pollution from ships, aircraft and nonroad vehicles and engines in late 2007 and early 2008.

But three years went by, the group says, and the EPA had taken no action.

They note: On June 11, 2010, a day after the U.S. Senate voted to uphold the EPAs authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Earthjustice filed suit challenging the agencys unreasonable delay in responding to the petitions and making formal findings concerning the harm caused by climate pollution from these sources.

The judge dismissed claims concerning marine vessels and nonroad vehicles. He is expected to set a timeline that EPA must follow.