EPA Sued For Failing To Reduce Airplane Pollution

During his last year in the Oval Office, President Obama has taken some steps to support environmental action and address the threat of climate change. He recently banned gas and oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean (it’s a start), and visited Alaska last year to bring awareness to the effects of global warming on the state’s residents.

However, one important factor contributing largely to our nation’s carbon emissions has been overlooked by the Obama administration: airplane pollution.

According to reports by CBS, American-owned aircrafts emit about 30 percent of all the aircraft pollution in the world. With more and more effects of climate change seen around the world every day, one would think that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would take steps to curb this pollution.

However, definitive beneficial action has not yet been taken, though many organizations have been pressuring the EPA to act on this issue for about 10 years.  

In response to this lack of action, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA on April 12, 2016, for failing to set emission standards for US aircrafts for over a decade. The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth filed a petition asking the EPA to reduce aircraft emissions. This was not done. In their complaint, the groups state that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to post emission standards on aircraft pollutants that may be dangerous.

The amount of emissions produced by aircrafts in the US is only expected to go up, and dramatically so. According to a 2015 report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:

“We analyzed projected global airline travel in the coming years to determine the cost to the climate crisis under a business-as-usual scenario. We found that by 2050, aircraft emissions are projected to more than triple. Unchecked, between 2016 and 2050 global aviation will generate an estimated 43 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. That amounts to more than four percent of the world’s entire remaining carbon budget — the amount of pollution that can still be emitted before catastrophic planetary warming becomes virtually certain.”

Basically, unless something is done, airlines will continue to contribute significantly to global warming, making our planet’s chances that much bleaker.

Vera Pardee, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, stated:

“Airplanes’ skyrocketing climate pollution requires urgent action, not more foot-dragging from the Obama administration. The EPA has dawdled for almost a decade, even as airplane emissions are on track to spiral out of control. We can’t afford more denial and delay in tackling this high-flying threat to our climate.”

Sarah Burt, a legal expert on aircraft pollution with Earthjustice, added:

“There is an opportunity for Obama to continue his global leadership on climate change by advancing stronger protections. As the largest contributor to aircraft carbon pollution, the US should lead the way to meaningful action on this source of emissions.” 

Previous announcements by the EPA stated that 2018 was the “earliest possible date” for a final rule on the regulation of airplane emissions. The environmental groups involved in the lawsuit argue that this is not soon enough. The EPA released no immediate response to the lawsuit.

In my opinion, this lawsuit is well-founded. We only get one planet, and if we do not tackle the largest sources of carbon emissions, all those exciting travel destinations that airplanes whisk us to may not be paradise for long.

—Tanya Rakhmilevich

Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe, and enjoys spending time immersed in nature.


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