EPA to regulate aircraft emissions under the Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final determination that aircraft emissions contribute to air pollution that endangers human health, paving the way for new regulations to be put in place under the Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA, U.S. aircraft contribute 12% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the nation's transportation sector, 3% of total U.S. GHG emissions, and 29 percent of global aircraft emissions.

According to a Reuters news report, the finding triggers a requirement under the Clean Air Act for the EPA to establish emission standards for aircraft. It covers jet aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass greater than 5,700 kg as well as larger turboprop aircraft. Not included are smaller turboprops, smaller jet aircraft, piston-engine aircraft, helicopters and military aircraft.

The EPA is expected to adopt the emission standard developed by the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or develop one that is “at least as stringent.” In February, after six years of talks, the ICAO agreed on a global standard aimed at makers of small and large planes, including Airbus and Boeing that will apply to all new aircraft models launched after 2020.

The standard awaits approval by ICAO's governing council in Montreal this fall before being adopted in March 2017. The ICAO emissions standard will mean that approximately 40% of current aircraft designs will need to be improved or will end production by 2028, according to an ICAO spokesman.

Airline officials are calling on the Obama administration to model its regulations after those of the U.N. to keep U.S. aircraft and engine manufacturers, such as Boeing and General Electric, competitive with companies such as Airbus and Mitsubishi.