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Late last month, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) took the first steps to regulate greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from aircraft engines. In particular, EPA is proposing to find that GHG emissions from certain classes of engines used in aircraft contribute to the air pollution that causes climate change and endangers public health and welfare under the Clean Air Act. EPA’s action is part of a multi-step process toward aligning future international and U.S. standards for carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines, which are anticipated to be adopted in early 2016. For decades, EPA, in consultation with the FAA, has regulated emissions from commercial aircraft engines. Once standards are set, the FAA is responsible for ensuring compliance.

As part of the regulation process, the EPA and FAA work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”), an aviation-focused body of the United Nations, to establish international emission standards. Through subsequent rulemakings, EPA typically sets domestic standards equal to the international standards established by ICAO. EPA has followed this protocol for aircraft exhaust pollutants such as hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and smoke.

ICAO, after working with EPA and FAA, as well as its other member states, is expected to issue carbon dioxide emission standards in early 2016. EPA’s recent action is the initial step in the process that will allow EPA to adopt carbon dioxide standards equivalent to the ICAO standards in the future.

For more information on EPA’s actions, please click here.