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The EPA is laying the groundwork to limit airplane emissions

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The airline industry will eventually have to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to a process started today by the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Specific requirements won't be imposed on airlines just yet, and both small-engine and military aircraft won't be covered by the regulations. The EPA is requesting input and information on the proposed findings over the next 60 days, with a public hearing scheduled for August 11th. After that, the EPA will wait for the International Civil Aviation Organization to wrap its internal discussions on carbon emissions in the aviation industry before publishing actual rules, according to The New York Times. That isn't expected to happen until February of 2016.

Today's news is similar to the steps taken by the EPA in 2009, when the agency issued a finding that stated that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles contributed to the air pollution. It's taken years to materialize, but that process is finally resulting in the adoption of greenhouse gas standards for cars and light or commercial trucks.

Some airlines have already tried to cut back, but it might not be enough

The transportation sector is responsible for roughly one third of total US greenhouse gas emissions according to Christopher Grundler, the director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. Aircraft are responsible for 11 percent of those emissions.

Many airlines and airports have already been working on reducing emissions by experimenting with biofuels, using single engines while taxiing (or shutting them off entirely), or shaving weight on everything from the in-flight magazines to the ice in your drink.

These types of small changes could already be making an impact. According to the Times report, airlines see a one-ton yearly reduction in carbon emissions for every 5.5 pounds of weight shed. And fuel consumption could be reduced by 18 percent if stop-and-go taxiing was eliminated, according to a study done by NASA at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 2010.

But these reductions might not be enough to account for the steady growth of the aviation sector over the last few years. US carriers are expected to see a 2 percent yearly increase in passengers for the foreseeable future, according to the FAA.