The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it will propose a declaration that says carbon emissions from commercial planes contribute to climate change and hurt human health.
EPA also said it was working with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which includes 191 member states, to develop carbon dioxide standards for planes that would impact airlines in the U.S. and across the world.
“The EPA administrator is proposing to find that (greenhouse gas) emissions from certain classes of engines used primarily in commercial aircraft contribute to the air pollution that causes climate change and endangers public health and welfare,” the agency said in a statement, announcing an Aug. 11 hearing on the proposal and a 60-day window for the public to weigh in.
The move was the first step towards regulating air pollution from commercial airlines, but the ICAO standards aren’t expected to be adopted until early 2016. The earliest the EPA would be able to put out a notice of new standards would be in 2017, after President Barack Obama is out of office, and a final rule wouldn’t go into effect until at least 2018.
The future regulation would apply to commercial aircraft and business jets, but not military aircraft, which the EPA does not have jurisdiction over.
Wednesday’s announcement is the latest in a series of moves from the Obama administration geared at combating climate change, which Obama has characterized as an immediate national security threat.
Earlier this year, the administration announced a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by up to 28% over the next 10 years, and the EPA said its announcement Wednesday “supports the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions from large sources of carbon pollution.”
Republicans, however, see the proposal as yet another burdensome regulation that hurts businesses and Americans’ pocketbooks. Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, slammed the EPA’s announcement and suggested future regulations were unnecessary.
“Such regulations would increase the price of airfare for Americans and harm our domestic carriers. Over the last 50 years, the fuel efficiency of jetliners has increased by 70 percent. Incentives are already in place to make air travel more energy efficient. This proposal is the next leg of a nonstop journey by the EPA to control how Americans live, work and travel,” he said.
RELATED: Commercial airlines industry mixed on imminent emission regulations
Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta said last week his team is working with the EPA on the new proposals, but said it is important that the regulatory agency recognize the steps that are already being taken to reduce emissions by the FAA and the airlines. He added that any regulations should be based on global standards.
“This is something that we have been working with EPA on. It’s going to be a long-term process really to bring aviation into compliance with a lot of policy level initiatives taking place globally,” Huerta said. “What we want to make sure is that anything EPA does, they understand the technical situation in the aviation industry and what is within the realm of possible.”
United Airlines is one of the commercial airliners already on the path to reducing its carbon footprint. In 2011, the airline said it operated the first U.S. commercial flight powered by advanced biofuels. The Boeing 737-800 aircraft flew from Houston to Chicago using a blend of algae-derived biofuel and traditional jet fuel.
The airline told CNN in an email that last year it “reduced (carbon) emissions by more than 1 million metric tons and reduced fuel consumption by more than 110 million gallons through fuel efficiency, equal to removing more than 225,000 cars from the road.”
And last July, Brazilian airline GOL announced it partnered with a renewable product company to make its first international flight from Florida to Sao Paulo using jet fuel made from sugarcane.
Airlines for America, a trade group that represents commercial carriers, said last week it was pleased the FAA and EPA were working together to develop carbon dioxide standards for new aircraft, but said international cooperation was necessary.
“As aviation is a global industry, with airlines and aircraft operators operating internationally and aircraft manufacturers selling their aircraft in international markets, it is critical that aircraft emissions standards continue to be agreed to at the international level,” the group said in a statement.
CNN’s Sunlen Serfaty contributed to this report.