WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators have proposed a new rule that limits requirements for factories to hold permits for greenhouse gas carbon emissions to the largest sources such as big coal-fired power plants and big manufacturers.
The Environmental Protection Agency's chief Lisa Jackson signed on Friday the third step of a so-called "tailoring rule" on carbon emissions which proposes to keep greenhouse gas permitting at current levels of at least 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Plants with that level of pollution that make changes that would lead to an increase in the pollution of 75,000 tons per year would have to get another round of permits.
Under the new rule, the EPA will not require industrial plants that emit 50,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide, or a bit more, to hold permits for releasing carbon dioxide, according to documents on the agency's web site.
The EPA's program on fighting emissions blamed for warming the planet will be challenged in a federal court this week, with opening arguments being heard on Tuesday and Wednesday.
An environmentalist said the proposals limiting permitting to the largest sources made sense.
"I don't think you'd get much gain from the headache of going after the smaller sources," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. He said state and local permitting agencies that have faced budget cuts could have trouble handling work load if permits for the smaller polluters were required.
The EPA will take public comment on the proposed changes until April 20.
(Reporting By Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy)