In January 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially started regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Industries that are the largest emitters of GHGs will be required to obtain CAA permits and implement cost-effective technologies and energy efficiency measures. EPA will exempt smaller sources from permitting requirements, which includes farms and ranches. However, the agency is set to reevaluate the permitting threshold in 2016. If the level is reduced to the CAA statute of 250 tons per year of GHGs, nearly 99% of U.S. dairy farms could be regulated.
Nevertheless, EPA officials could soon see their hands tied if several members of Congress are successful with efforts. With their attempts to halt the GHG regulations proving futile in the 111th Congress, several key leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate expect to generate support once again, and this time they expect more members to join them. While it will be extremely difficult to overturn the rule that provides EPA the authority to regulate GHGs, Congress may look to defund the agency’s efforts for the foreseeable future. Without question, oversight of the EPA will be a major priority for many in the 112th Congress.