Court Orders EPA to Fulfill Its “Long-Overdue” Duty to Reduce Landfill Pollution

May 6, 2019
Sharyn Stein, EDF, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – May 6, 2019) A federal court declared today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to fulfill its “long-overdue nondiscretionary duties” under the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution from landfills, and ordered the agency to address the problem by this fall.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued the order today in a lawsuit filed by EDF and a coalition of eight states led by California.

“Today the court ordered EPA to stop dragging its feet on reducing harmful air pollution from landfills,” said EDF attorney Rachel Fullmer. “These crucial clean air safeguards will now be fully implemented nationwide, reducing climate-changing methane and hazardous air pollutants that harm millions of people.”

Landfills are the nation’s third-largest source of climate-destabilizing methane pollution. They also emit other hazardous pollutants like benzene, which causes cancer, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which lead to the formation of smog.

EPA set emission guidelines for municipal solid waste landfills in 2016, but the Trump administration has refused to implement these clean air standards.

Today’s court decision states “[t]here is no denying EPA’s clear failure to meet its nondiscretionary duties” under the Clean Air Act. (Decision, page 9)

The court required EPA to finalize state plans to reduce landfill pollution no later than September 6 of this year, and to finalize a federal plan no later than November 6 for states that did not submit plans. EPA must also provide the court with status reports every 90 days.

EPA tried to argue for an unprecedented theory of “standing” in the case. The agency claimed that EDF and the states should not have standing to argue the case under the landmark climate decision in Massachusetts v. EPA because we did not sufficiently demonstrate that harms from climate pollution were caused by EPA’s failure to address landfill pollution. The court emphatically rejected that argument.

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