Judge – EPA Delay on Dangerous Landfill Pollution is an Attempt to “Sidestep” the Court’s Order

November 5, 2019
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – November 5, 2019) A federal court today rejected EPA’s most recent attempt to stall full implementation of a 2016 rule that will reduce unhealthy air pollution from landfills.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied EPA’s motion to re-open its final judgment, finding that the agency’s request was an attempt to “sidestep” the earlier court order.

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to carry out these landfill pollution standards, which are crucial to protect millions of Americans across the country from harmful climate-destabilizing methane and hazardous air pollution. The Trump Administration has gone to great lengths to avoid fully implementing these rules, even after the court ordered EPA to act,” said EDF attorney Rachel Fullmer. “Today the court said emphatically that delays are unacceptable.”

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. EDF along with a separate coalition of eight states, including California, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, sued to force EPA to fulfill its duty to protect Americans from this dangerous pollution.

In May, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled against EPA, stating “[t]here is no denying EPA’s clear failure to meet its nondiscretionary duties” under the Clean Air Act.” The court ordered 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 filed a motion seeking relief from that court order, arguing that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s signing in August of a final rule with different deadlines required more time to meet the court’s requirements. Today, the court denied that motion, finding that EPA’s that request was no more than an attempt to “sidestep [] the Court’s order, delaying EPA’s fulfillment of unchanged obligations with no guarantee that this precise situation will not occur again in two years’ time.” (Order, page 5)

The court also ruled that, “given EPA’s significant progress and the limited work remaining on the federal plan, the record does not establish that the Court-imposed six-month deadline is no longer equitable.” (Order, page 6)

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