Under a final decision, issued on Monday, March 29, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, said no stationary sources will be required to get Clean Air Act permits that cover greenhouse gases before January 2011. EPA has pledged to take sensible steps to address the billions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution that threaten Americans’ health and welfare, and is providing time for large industrial facilities and state governments to put in place cost-effective, innovative technologies to control and reduce carbon pollution. According to EPA, Monday’s announcement is the first step in the administration’s phased-in approach to addressing greenhouse gas emissions laid out by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson earlier this month.

“This is a common-sense plan for phasing in the protections of the Clean Air Act,” EPA Administrator Jackson said. “It gives large facilities the time they need to innovate, governments the time to prepare to cut greenhouse gases and it ensures that we don’t push this problem off to our children and grandchildren. With a clear process in place, it’s now time for American innovators and entrepreneurs to go to work and lead us into the clean energy economy of the future.”

Today’s action determines that Clean Air Act construction and operating permit requirements for the largest emitting facilities will begin when the first national rule controlling GHGs takes effect. If finalized as proposed, the rule limiting GHG emissions for cars and light trucks would trigger these requirements in January 2011 – the earliest model year 2012 vehicles meeting the standards can be sold in the United States. The agency expects to issue final vehicle GHG standards shortly.

EPA has committed to focusing its GHG permitting requirements on the largest sources. The agency will make a decision later this spring on the amount of GHGs facilities can emit before having to include limits for these emissions in their permits.

According to an article in The New York Times, the action clarifies and largely overturns a memorandum issued by the E.P.A. in December 2008, a month before former President George W. Bush left office. The Bush administration found that permits for emissions of greenhouse gases were not required unless the government issued a so-called endangerment finding that carbon dioxide and other such gases posed a danger to health and the environment. The Bush administration never made such a finding.

More information and the letter Administrator Jackson sent last month outlining this approach and timeline is available online.