The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold five “listening sessions” to help the agency update the Clean Air Act pollution standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries.

Sessions will be open to the public and are expected to help EPA develop what it called a “common-sense approach to reduce GHGs” from two of the largest industrial sources. 

As part of a settlement agreement announced Dec. 23, 2010, EPA will propose GHG standards based on existing technologies for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011. The agency said it will issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

In addition to these GHG New Source Performance Standards the agency is also addressing other emissions, including mercury and particle pollution, in what it said would be separate and coordinated actions.

EPA said feedback from its listening sessions “will play an important role” in helping it develop “smart, cost-effective and protective standards that reflect the latest and best information available.” The agency will solicit additional public comment during the usual notice and comment period – including the opportunity for a formal public hearing – after the proposals have been published and before they go into effect.

EPA said each listening session would last two hours and will feature a facilitated roundtable discussion among stakeholder representatives who have been identified and selected for their expertise in the Clean Air Act standard-setting process. The agency has asked key stakeholder groups to identify these roundtable participants.

Registration is not required to attend the sessions. There will be a short period of time at the end of each session for the public to provide comments. EPA said a session scheduled for March 4 would allow additional time for the public to provide feedback. The agency requests that written comments be submitted by March 18, 2011.

Each session will be webcast and recorded for later viewing via the EPA website .