The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a report this month calling for a variety of actions to be taken by the EPA in advance of comprehensive federal legislation regulating greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. The “Report on the Tools Available Under the Clean Air Act to Immediately Reduce Global Warming Pollution” presents the results of the Committee’s September 23, 2008 hearing on the extent of EPA’s current authority with respect to GHG regulation.

In its report, the Committee urges passage of a comprehensive global warming bill quickly in the 111th Congress, but also identifies specific strategies that should be pursued in the interim under the current authority provided in the Clean Air Act. In addition to (1) granting the California waiver, the Committee specifically recommends (2) issuing a new national GHG emissions standard for cars, trucks, and other light duty vehicles, (3) adopting a national low-carbon fuel standard that would achieve a reduction in the carbon content of fuels while accounting for the fuel’s direct life cycle carbon emissions as well as indirect GHG emission impacts, and (4) setting performance-based GHG emissions standards for new and existing stationary sources.

Taking the four steps identified in the report, the Committee argues, will “allow the incoming Administration to begin to address global warming emissions immediately while creating jobs and providing incentives for development of clean energy technologies.” Notably, with respect to the fourth strategy, the report states that “[a]n obvious beginning point would be coal-fired power plants,” and contemplates the establishment of New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for GHG emissions as well as the consideration of such emissions in determinations of “Best Available Control Technology” and “Lowest Achievable Emission Rate” in the application of the New Source Review program. In its discussion of the application of NSPS to GHG emissions, the Committee indicates that EPA has the flexibility to utilize energy efficiency measures in lieu of the more commonly used numerical emission standards.