Bakers fault E.P.A. tack on greenhouse gases

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — The failure of the Environmental Protection Agency to distinguish between large and small sources of greenhouse gases in proposed rulemaking on emissions was sharply criticized in recent comments by bakers and other food manufacturers.

The Food Industry Environmental Council, a coalition of 60 food groups, including the American Bakers Association, submitted comments recently to the E.P.A. The coalition represents 15,000 facilities across the United States. The council urged the E.P.A. to seek a legislative approach to address greenhouse gases, rather than a regulatory one. If a regulatory approach is unavoidable, rules should be "crafted in such a way so as to avoid significant adverse effects on the cost of food in the United States."

The council’s comments do not focus much on specific food industry issues related to greenhouse gases. Instead, the group criticizes an E.P.A. approach that it describes as onerous for industries such as food that are minor contributors to greenhouse gases.

The Clean Air Act is not well suited for regulating greenhouse gases, the F.I.E.C. said. The group noted that the C.A.A. is nearly 40 years old and has been the principal system for maintaining good air quality. Originally focused on criteria pollutants, the act subsequently focused on ozone depleting substances and then an acid rain regulatory program. Still, the act is not "well-suited to the regulation of globally-significant pollutants like greenhouse gases."

The coalition warned that including greenhouse gases in federal preconstruction permit requirements would "extend preconstruction permitting requirements to thousands of additional sources — many of them quite small."

"Regulating thousands more sources under a preconstruction permit program would result in an extraordinarily inefficient regulatory program and would undoubtedly slow the development of new means of production in the U.S. economy," the F.I.E.C. said.

Similarly, including greenhouse gases in operating permit requirements would have wide ramifications, they added.

"Including all major sources of greenhouse gases … would impose an extraordinary regulatory burden on more than half a million sources not otherwise subject to Title V (rules regulating operating permits for businesses that are air pollution sources), with very little substantive improvement in the nation’s carbon footprint," the F.I.E.C. said. The group added that requiring such permitting would add a significant cost to its members while generating little, if any’ greenhouse-gases related benefit.

"We strongly urge E.P.A. to work with Congress to develop and enact a comprehensive amendment to the Clean Air Act that avoids the adverse consequences of these programs while at the same time implements an economy-wide greenhouse gas regulator program that is well-balanced and focused on the unique national and international challenges of greenhouse gas emissions," the food group said.

Absent congressional action, the coalition proffered what it described as "innovative solutions" to avoid the consequences of the E.P.A. proposal. To begin with, the council urged the E.P.A. to focus on categories that are the largest sources of greenhouse gases and develop a cap-and-trade program for this group, accounting for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. By also developing new motor vehicle emission standards and including fuel producers in the cap-and-trade program, the food coalition estimated up to 80% of emissions would be covered. The remaining 20%, including the food industry, should then be regulated only as new technology "makes it cost effective to control smaller sources of greenhouse gases."

To avoid a cost ineffective regulatory burden on small sources, the group urged the E.P.A. to drop plans to include greenhouse gases in the air quality planning program, in the preconstruction permit program or the operating permit program.

The coalition said its approach could bring up to 80% of greenhouse gas emission sources under control "but without the unintended consequences of dramatically expanded air quality planning procedures, preconstruction permitting requirements or operating requirements."

The council urged the E.P.A. to use its discretion and not label greenhouse gases as "criteria pollutants" because of fundamental differences with other substances characterized as pollutants. Under the Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. must establish air quality standards for such pollutants (currently there are six — particulate matter, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead).

A fundamental difference between greenhouse gases and these six, the F.I.E.C. said, is that concentrations of greenhouse gases is relatively even around the world "leading to the fact that local G.H.G. air quality is simply not dependent on local emissions."

Because the Clean Air Act’s air quality planning structure is based on the control of local emissions leading to local — or at most regional — air quality improvements, "the global nature of G.H.G. concentrations makes efficacious implementation of air quality planning impossible," the council continued.

In that vein, the council said the E.P.A. has no mechanism to redress local greenhouse gas concentrations.

"Assuming that G.H.G. emissions were cut to zero in the United States, the effect of other countries’ G.H.G. emissions would make it factually impossible for the United States alone to achieve G.H.G. air quality standards," the council said.

The F.I.E.C. letter to the E.P.A. was signed by Robert L. Garfield, who is chairman of the group. Mr. Garfield is interim president of the American Frozen Food Institute. The A.F.F.I. is providing administrative support for the F.I.E.C.

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