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Attorney General William Tong

01/15/2021

Attorney General Tong Joins Suit to Block Trump Administration Rule That Locks In Dangerous Levels of Airplane Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate coalition suing to block an unlawful Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that would lock in dangerously high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes. The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to issue emissions standards for dangerous pollutants, including emissions from aircraft engines. The EPA’s entirely insufficient rule would result in no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The aviation industry is the largest unregulated transportation source of GHGs in the United States, contributing 12 percent of total transportation-related emissions. Given the long lead time necessary for manufacturers to develop new aircraft designs, the EPA's final rule would effectively lock in meaningless standards for years — as the climate emergency grows increasingly dire. In today’s lawsuit, the coalition argues that the rule is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.

“The United States produces more than one quarter of all global aviation emissions—a serious threat to our climate that this rule seeks to cement rather than address. For four years, the Trump Administration recklessly sought to eviscerate and undermine every facet of our environmental protections. This rule is yet another unlawful effort to lock in their dangerous pro-fossil fuel agenda on their way out the door, and we won’t allow it,” said Attorney General Tong. “Connecticut’s aerospace manufacturers have already designed engines capable of using biofuels to dramatically reduce emissions. Our federal regulations must fully support their cutting-edge work and ensure American technology keeps pace with the global demand for cleaner, more efficient aircraft.”

Aviation emissions are a significant source of the world’s total GHG emissions, and the United States is the single largest emitter. Globally, the aviation industry is responsible for approximately 2.4 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of GHG emissions from all transportation sources. The United States contributes more than a quarter of global aviation GHG emissions, and its emissions from aircraft alone are higher than total GHG emissions in more than 150 countries. GHG emissions from U.S. aircraft are expected to grow 43 percent in the next two decades, and globally, aviation emissions are expected to triple by 2050 unless governments and industry take aggressive action.

Section 231 of the Clean Air Act authorizes and directs the EPA to issue appropriate emission standards for dangerous pollutants from aircraft engines based on a reasonable assessment of aircrafts’ contribution to GHG emissions and the technological feasibility of emissions controls. Strengthening emission standards now would not only benefit public health and the environment, but could also lead to consumer savings in the long run and help make American-manufactured aircraft more competitive in markets that are adopting robust GHG emission standards.

However, last month, the EPA finalized standards that lag behind existing technology by more than 10 years and would result in no GHG reductions at all compared to business-as-usual. In fact, the EPA has not even considered any form of emission control that would reduce GHGs, despite its determination that these emissions endanger public health and the environment. The EPA also failed to consider the co-benefits of GHG regulation and the environmental justice impacts of pollution from aircrafts. Aircrafts emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and hazardous air pollutants. Residents living within 10 miles of airports — which disproportionately include disadvantaged minority and low-income communities — are exposed to large amounts of these harmful pollutants through emissions from aircraft landing and takeoff operations.

In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that the EPA acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unlawfully by adopting a rule that:
· Fails to reduce emissions at all beyond business-as-usual;
· Lags existing technology by a decade; and
· Excluded from consideration more effective alternatives.

In October 2020, the multistate coalition urged the EPA to strengthen standards regulating GHG aircraft emissions.

Assistant Attorneys General William Dornbos and Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.
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