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Climate Policy Under the Clean Air Act
First Wednesday Seminar
March 3, 2010

International Greenhouse Gas Offsets Under the Clean Air Act
RFF Feature
April 26, 2010

International Greenhouse Gas Offsets Under the Clean Air Act

International greenhouse gas offsets have been identified as a valuable tool for controlling the costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. While most climate proposals under consideration in Congress include offset provisions, their legislative future is unclear. In the meantime, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to use rules under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  How—and whether—international offsets fit into this scenario remains to be seen.

In “International Greenhouse Gas Offsets Under the Clean Air Act,” Nathan Richardson examines whether EPA programs have the regulatory capacity to govern offsets, finding little evidence of a good fit in CAA provisions.

Richardson concludes that, for most CAA programs, international offsets are either precluded by the statute or would require a legally ambitious and risky reading of statutory language. Those few CAA programs that might be more compatible with international offsets are a poor fit for GHG regulation in general, and have their own legal limitations.

Even among advocates of CAA regulation of GHGs, says Richardson, comprehensive climate legislation is generally viewed as a superior alternative. One important justification for this belief is the inaccessibility of cost savings from international offsets under CAA regulation.

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