Food and Technology Blog

Conservation groups launch legal challenge to cut carbon pollution from aircraft

Posted Aug. 5, 2014 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

Challenge cites EPA’s delay in addressing one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution three years after federal judge ruled agency must act

SAN FRANCISCO — Conservation groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to reduce global warming pollution from aircraft engines. The notice, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, notes that EPA has failed to reduce this pollution even though a federal judge ruled nearly three years ago that it must address aviation’s fast-growing carbon emissions. Earthjustice is representing Friends of the Earth in the suit.

“The airline industry’s massive and fast-growing greenhouse gas pollution poses a dangerous threat to our climate,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The EPA has to stop dragging its feet and start pushing airlines to curb their damaging carbon emissions.”

Aviation accounts for about 11 percent of carbon dioxide pollution from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, rising three to five percent a year. Carbon emissions from global aviation will quadruple by mid-century without action.

In 2010, the Center, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental organizations represented by Earthjustice sued to force EPA to set standards on greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft. A judge quickly ruled that the EPA is required to address aircraft emissions under the Clean Air Act. EPA has still not finished the first step in its rulemaking process.

“There is a real opportunity to curb global warming pollution from the airline industry,” said Martin Wagner, an Earthjustice managing attorney. “But the industry won’t do it on its own.  EPA must act now to ensure that the airline industry operates more efficiently to play its part in protecting our families, our communities and the environment from the devastating effects of climate change.”

Dramatic aviation emission reductions are readily achievable, a recent International Council on Clean Transportation report shows.  Despite the airline industry’s claim that fuel costs already force them to operate as efficiently as possible, the report found a 26 percent gap between the most and least fuel-efficient airlines serving America’s domestic market.

“As time runs out to head off global warming’s worst effects, President Obama has to push the aviation industry to cut carbon pollution,” asserted Friends of the Earth analyst John Kaltenstein. “Airlines can clearly operate much more efficiently, but federal rules are critical to reducing their dangerous emissions.”

The court filing is available here.

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Expert Contacts: 
John Kaltenstein, (510) 900-3142, jkaltenstein@foe.org
Vera Pardee, (415) 436-9682 x 317, vpardee@biologicaldiversity.org
Martin Wagner, (415) 217-2000 x 2050, mwagner@earthjustice.org

Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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