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Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic

Challenging EPA to Promulgate Greenhouse Gas Controls for the Nitric Acid Industry

Over the past two years, EPA has taken remarkable steps to begin regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Its initial rules have focused on mobile sources and facility-by-facility permitting under the PSD program. Many environmental groups believe one of the most important next steps is sector-by-sector regulation of stationary sources under the NSPS program. Through petitions and litigation, environmental groups are pressuring EPA to begin regulating power plants, petroleum refineries, CAFOs, and other industrial sectors. As part of this effort, the Clinic has been representing the Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project in a deadline suit against EPA relating to its overdue review of the NSPS for nitric acid plants. Nitric acid plants are the largest industrial source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with 310 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Technologies for controlling such emissions are readily available and inexpensive, costing only $2 to $6 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. These technologies have the ability to eliminate well over 90 percent of nitrous oxide emissions. On October 14, 2011, EPA issued proposed revisions to its performance standard for this industrial category, which include a stronger standard for conventional NOx pollution, but no standard for greenhouse gas emissions. On behalf of the Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council, the ENRLC submitted the attached public comments for consideration by EPA in connection with its proposed rule entitled "New Source Performance Standards Review for Nitric Acid Plants," Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0750, on November 28, 2011. The comments express support for the stronger NOx standard, but emphasize that EPA's failure to include a nitrous oxide standard is unlawful. EPA's final rule is due by March 30, 2012.