Attorney General Becerra Urges Trump Administration to Strengthen Standards Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Airplanes

Monday, October 19, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) today, leading a coalition of 12 attorneys general, filed comments urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen standards regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplanes and other aircraft. Recently, the EPA put forward an entirely insufficient proposal that would result in no GHG reductions from aircrafts as compared to business-as-usual. In the comment letter, the coalition argues that this proposal fails to fulfill the EPA’s obligations under the Clean Air Act and must be abandoned in favor of stronger standards. 

“If we hope to leave behind a habitable planet for the next generation, we must tackle the climate crisis head on,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The aviation industry is a significant source of global emissions. But this sham proposal to regulate it is the equivalent of doing nothing. We call on the EPA to do its job and present real options to reduce emissions from this sector.” 

“Despite acknowledging the harm caused by aircraft GHG emissions, EPA is proposing to adopt a so-called "standard" that requires no action and provides no benefits,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This is especially outrageous when effective GHG-reducing technologies and measures, such as aerodynamics improvements, weight-reducing technologies, and sustainable aviation fuels, are readily available.  EPA must adopt meaningful standards for aircraft emissions—not only for GHGs, but also for localized aircraft pollution that threatens the health of many Californians.”

Aviation emissions are a significant source of the world’s total GHG emissions, and the United States is the single largest emitter. Globally, the aviation industry is responsible for approximately 2.4 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and 12 percent of GHG emissions from all transportation sources. The United States contributes more than a quarter of global aviation GHG emissions, and its emissions from aircraft alone are higher than total GHG emissions in more than 150 countries. GHG emissions from U.S. aircraft are expected to grow 43 percent in the next two decades, and globally, aviation emissions are expected to triple by 2050 unless governments and industry take aggressive action. 

Section 231 of the Clean Air Act authorizes and directs the EPA to issue appropriate emission standards for dangerous pollutants from aircraft engines based on a reasonable assessment of aircrafts’ contribution to GHG emissions and the technological feasibility of emissions controls. Strengthening emission standards now would not only benefit public health and the environment, but will lead to fuel savings in future decades that can recoup the cost of developing new technology or be passed on to the consumer through lower ticket prices. However, the EPA has proposed standards that lag behind existing technology by more than 10 years and would result in no GHG reductions at all compared to business-as-usual. In fact, the EPA has not even considered any form of emission control that would reduce GHGs, despite its determination that these emissions endanger public health and the environment. The EPA also fails to consider the co-benefits of GHG regulation and the environmental justice impacts of pollution from aircrafts in its proposal.

In the comment letter, the coalition urges the EPA to strengthen standards regulating GHG emissions for aircrafts, arguing that the proposed standards are unlawful because:

  • The EPA must take into account, at the very least, the danger of GHG emissions and the technological feasibility of emissions control in exercising its discretion to promulgate “appropriate” emission standards under Section 231 of the Clean Air Act;
  • Failure to consider any options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions violates Section 231 of the Clean Air Act and is arbitrary and capricious; and
  • The United States’ obligations under the Chicago Convention do not excuse EPA’s failure to protect the United States from dangerous pollution.

Attorney General Becerra and CARB are joined by Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

# # #