Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2016

Center/Program

Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Abstract

Under President Barack Obama the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated a series of greenhouse gas emissions regulations, initiating the necessary national response to climate change. However, the United States will need to find other ways to reduce GHG emissions if it is to live up to its international emissions reduction pledges, and to ultimately lead the way to a zero-carbon energy future. This paper argues that the success of the recent climate negotiations in Paris provides a strong basis for invoking a powerful tool available to help achieve the country’s climate change goals: Section 115 of the Clean Air Act, titled “International Air Pollution.” This provision authorizes EPA to require states to address emissions that contribute to air pollution endangering public health or welfare in other countries, if the other countries provide the U.S. with reciprocal protections. The language of Section 115 does not limit the agency to regulating a particular source-type, or a given industrial or economic sector. Rather, it grants EPA and the states broad latitude to address international air pollution comprehensively through the Clean Air Act’s State Implementation Plan process, increasing administrative efficiency and reducing burdens on regulated companies. EPA and the states could use the provision to establish an economy-wide, market-based approach for reducing GHG emissions. Such a program would provide one of the most effective and efficient means to address climate change pollution in the United States.

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