That’s essentially EPA officials’ response to criticism that they are seizing an opportunity to strengthen pollution regulations for commercial jet engines and benefit environmental justice communities.
The tension is evident in a newly released final rule that aims to align US emissions standards for new engines with guidelines from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency responsible for aviation issues.
However, with a January 2023 deadline looming, the EPA acknowledges that the revised standards will not have an immediate impact on curbing the release of harmful particulate matter and stresses their importance in keeping domestic engine manufacturers competitive in the global marketplace.
“The EPA has historically placed significant weight on consistency with international requirements as a factor in setting aircraft engine standards,” the rule reads. “The fact that most aircraft already meet the standards does not in itself mean that the standards are inadequate, provided the agency has a reasonable basis after considering all relevant factors.”
But it adds that the EPA “views the regulation of aircraft PM emissions as a long-term process, with the potential for successive standards of increasing severity.”
In a follow-up study to studies showing that many communities near airports have disproportionate numbers of people of color and low-income residents, the agency is also conducting an analysis to better understand the resulting “human health or environmental impacts.” to understand.
An EPA spokesman, noting that many agency employees are out on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday, could not immediately answer questions about the expected completion date of the analysis or the EPA’s plans to investigate tighter engine standards.
Particulate matter is linked to a range of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including a higher risk of early death for those with pre-existing conditions.
The final rule, released on Wednesday, appears to have changed little from an earlier draft that came under fire at a public hearing in February.
While President Joe Biden has vowed to “start a clean energy revolution” and prioritize environmental justice concerns, “the EPA’s proposed PM rule not only falls short of those goals, it doesn’t even take them seriously,” attorney Scott Hochberg said with the Center for Biodiversity, according to a transcript.
“PM reductions from aircraft are necessary for the safety of our communities and the environment,” said Bonnie Soriano, a branch manager with the California Air Resources Board, later in the hearing. Airplanes are a major source of those emissions, Soriano said, adding that “the EPA should stop outsourcing its guidance to ICAO.”
In an email sent Wednesday after this story was originally published, Hochberg said the final rule “doubled down on the EPA’s flawed approach.”
The new standards “could have provided a lifeline for vulnerable communities near major airports suffering from serious health consequences of poor air quality,” he said. “Instead, the EPA threw in the towel, despite knowing that aviation emissions will skyrocket in the years to come.”
A spokesman for the California board of directors did not respond to phone and email requests for comment made late Tuesday.
This spring, more than 100 environmental and public health advocates urged the EPA to strengthen its original proposal (climate wireApril 6).