The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving ahead on regulating greenhouse gas emissions as climate legislation stalls in the Senate.
The Obama administration has long said it wants Congress to pass laws to control output of the gases blamed for warming the planet.
But it has pushed the EPA to begin regulating emissions. The administration hopes that will pressure polluters that fear top-down regulation to back the process of forming climate legislation in Congress.
The EPA paved the way late last year for the rules by declaring greenhouse gases a threat to human health. The agency faces challenges from industry and lawmakers who question its authority to regulate the gases under the Clean Air Act.
Here are key dates for regulations the EPA has recently undertaken or will take soon:
APRIL 1, AUTOS
The EPA finalized the first U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rules on automobiles and significantly boosted fuel efficiency standards for the first time since the 1970s. Average U.S. vehicle emissions will be limited to 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by 2016, down from 295 grams in 2012.
END APRIL, OR A LITTLE LATER, POWER PLANTS AND FACTORIES
The regulations on autos will trigger EPA to finalize rules on controlling greenhouse gas emission from big stationary sources, like power plants that run on coal or natural gas, as well as plants that make cement, steel and glass.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said no rules would be imposed on such polluters before early January next year.
But the EPA later this month has to adjust, or tailor greenhouse gas rules to limit the Clean Air Act to apply to only the biggest polluters.
The regulations may initially require plants that emit more than about 75,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to get permits saying they are using the best available technology to cut the pollution.
Power utilities such as Calpine Corp Southern, and Dynegy Inc may be regulated by the EPA. But they also have facilities known as 'peaker' plants that may escape regulation because they only generate electricity during times of high demand.
MARCH 31, 2011, DISCLOSING EMISSIONS
Large polluters will have to submit annual reports to the EPA about their emissions by March 31, 2011. The polluters have been required to measure the emissions since the beginning of 2010. The rule covers global warming pollutants including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide.
COMING YEARS, CAP-AND-TRADE?
Jackson said last month that the EPA has not devised a plan to implement a system of capping and trading emissions should the climate bill fail. [ID:nN08186620] But President Barack Obama's top climate advisor Carol Browner has said that EPA could work with states to expand their cap and trade systems. Ten states in the Northeast trade carbon dioxide emissions permits for power plants under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, while states in the West led by California hope to trade a wider set of emissions permits starting in 2012.
2016, SMALL EMITTERS
Jackson has said the EPA would not require smaller facilities to get the permits before 2016. The EPA's pollution threshold for emitters that qualify as small is unclear.