In a historic act, U.S. EPA proposed the nation’s first-ever greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standard for aircraft on July 21, 2020. (Proposed Rule). Once the Proposed Rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments. There will likely be significant push back from environmental groups on the Proposed Rule; so it may be important to provide industry comments, where appropriate. U.S. EPA has stated it is hoping to issue a final rule in 2021.

In 2016, U.S. EPA finalized findings that emissions of GHGs from certain classes of engines used in aircraft causes, or contributes to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare under section 231(a) of the Clean Air Act. These findings triggered a requirement for EPA to promulgate standards addressing GHG emissions from the engines of affected aircraft. The Proposed Rule begins the process of following through on that requirement.

The Proposed Rule is intended to match fuel efficiency standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2017 that are designed to control carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. In addition, U.S. EPA will use the same testing procedures instituted by ICAO to ensure compliance The ICAO standards were developed with input from EPA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and U.S. and international aviation industries. Typically, three out of four aircraft manufactured in the United States are sold overseas. U.S. EPA said that these standards will help ensure consistent standards across the world, and—most importantly—allow U.S.-manufactured planes, such as commercial and large passenger jets, to continue to compete in the global marketplace. U.S. EPA has acknowledged that industry groups—including manufacturers of airplane engines—had lobbied the agency to adopt the ICAO standard.

The implementation process provides significant lead-time to designers and manufacturers of aircraft covered by the standards. The Proposed Rule would apply to new-type design airplanes on or after January 1, 2020 and to in-production airplanes on or after January 1, 2028. The Proposed Rule would not apply to already manufactured airplanes that are currently in use.

After U.S. EPA promulgates the final rule with the standards, FAA will complete a subsequent rulemaking to enforce these standards. At that point, FAA could begin to certify airplanes of U.S. manufacturers.