09/27/2017 - Regulatory Rollback

Municipal Solid Waste Landfill New Source Performance Standards and Emissions Guidelines

by Hana Vizcarra, Robin Just

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following. If you’re a reporter and would like to speak with an expert on this rule, please email us.

Why it Matters

When the waste in landfills decomposes, methane, carbon dioxide, and other hazardous pollutants are released. These rules require emissions reductions from municipal landfills, targeting the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

Current Status

May 6, 2019 A federal judge in California finds EPA violated the CAA by failing to review and approve state submitted plans to implement the 2016 landfill emissions guidelines and issue a federal implementation plan within the required timeframes. The court orders EPA to approve or disapprove the 7 plans submitted by 5 states by Sept. 6, 2019; to promulgate the required federal plan by Nov. 6, 2019; and to submit status reports to the court every 90 days, the first of which is due Aug. 5, 2019. In the case, EPA acknowledged its failure to fulfill its obligations but argued that the states did not have standing to sue. The court disagreed, pointing to the “special solicitude” of states to invoke federal jurisdiction described by the Supreme Court in Mass. v. EPA. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

August 22, 2019 The EPA proposes a federal plan to implement the 2016 emissions guidelines for existing municipal solid waste landfills where state or tribal plans are not in effect. Comment period is open until October 7, 2019.  Per court order, the EPA has until Nov. 6, 2019 to finalize this federal plan. 

August 26 2019 The EPA publishes a final rule revising the 2016 emissions guidelines for existing landfills. The rule changes the timing requirements to align with the updated Clean Air Act section 111(d) implementing regulations finalized in the Affordable Clean Energy rule on July 8, 2019. (see more about the ACE rule on our Clean Power Plan page) The new rule requires states to submit their plans within three years of the publication of emissions guidelines. EPA then must approve or disapprove the state plans within twelve months after they are determined to be complete. Under the old rule, states had nine months to submit plans, and the EPA had four months to respond.

History

Aug 29, 2016 EPA finalizes two rules targeting methane emissions from new and existing landfills (the New Source Performance Standards and Emissions Guidelines, respectively). They are scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 28, 2016.

Oct. 27, 2016 Industry petitions EPA for reconsideration.

Trump Era

May 5, 2017 Administrator Pruitt sends a letter to industry, announcing that EPA will reconsider several aspects of the landfill rules.

May 31, 2017 EPA publishes its decision to reconsider several issues in the landfill rules and to delay the rules for 90 days.

June 16, 2017 Environmental groups sue EPA over the 90-day delayNRDC et al. v. EPA, No. 17-1157 (D.C. Cir.).

Aug. 4, 2017 The environmental groups ask the court to vacate EPA’s administrative stay of the landfill rule. NRDC, et al. v. EPA, No. 17-1157 (D.C. Cir.).

Sep. 28, 2017 The court denies the environmental groups’ request to vacate the stay. Since the 90-day delay is over, the rules should now be in effect. Therefore, the court orders parties to submit briefs on “whether the lawsuit is now moot.” NRDC, et al. v. EPA, No. 17-1157 (D.C. Cir.).

Nov. 20, 2017 The petitioners’ brief is submitted.

Jan. 22, 2018 EPA’s response brief is filed. NRDC, et al. v. EPA, No. 17-1157 (D.C. Cir.).

Feb. 1, 2018 The D.C. Circuit grants plaintiffs’ request to voluntarily dismiss its petition. Plaintiffs dismissed the case after EPA clarified that its stay did not affect any deadlines outside of the 90-day delay period. NRDC, et al. v. EPA, No. 17-1157 (D.C. Cir.).

March 23, 2018 Seven state attorneys general notify EPA they will sue in 60 days over its failure to enforce the 2016 Emissions Guidelines for existing municipal and solid waste landfills.

May 31, 2018 Eight state attorneys general file suit against EPA for its failure to enforce the 2016 Emissions Guidelines for existing municipal and solid waste landfills. The AGs of California, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont argue EPA has failed to fulfill its duty to implement and enforce the emission guidelines. They ask the court to declare that EPA violated the Clean Air Act and require EPA to implement and enforce the guidelines. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

June 20, 2018 The Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council send a 60-day notice of intent to sue to EPA for failing to implement or enforce the Emissions Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills issued on Aug. 29, 2016.

Sep. 13, 2018 Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) files a motion to intervene in the state AGs’ suit against EPA for failing to publish emissions guidelines.

Sep. 27, 2018 EPA argues in a filing opposing EDF’s request to join the case that the court should reject it because EDF’s claims are adequately represented by the states in the case. An EPA motion to dismiss this case remains pending.

Oct. 11, 2018 EPA files its final reply urging dismissal. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

Oct. 23, 2018 EPA notifies the court in the AGs’ suit that Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a proposed rule that would amend the deadlines in the 2016 Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. The proposal would result in extending the deadlines for states to submit plans to Aug. 29, 2019. EPA would then have six months to review the plans for completeness and another 12 months after that to consider whether to approve the plan. This new timing would align the deadlines with EPA’s ACE proposal. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

Oct. 30, 2018 EPA publishes its proposed rule extending the deadline for states to submit their plans to EPA for cutting methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills. The newly proposed rule extends the timeline for states to submit their plans by two years, from May 30, 2017 to August 29, 2019. Comments on the proposal are due by December 14, 2018.

Nov. 5, 2018 EPA files a motion to stay the suit brought by state AGs for EPA’s failure to enforce the 2016 emissions guidelines, pending the completion of the proposed rulemaking initiated on October 30, 2018. – California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

Dec. 21, 2018 The court denied EPA’s motion to stay and motion to dismiss in the suit alleging EPA failed to perform its non-discretionary duty to enforce the 2016 emissions guidelines. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

Jan. 22, 2019 States and environmental plaintiffs file summary judgment motion in case alleging EPA failed to enforce the 2016 emissions guidelines, a non-discretionary duty under the Clean Air Act. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

May 6, 2019 A federal judge in California finds EPA violated the CAA by failing to review and approve state submitted plans to implement the 2016 landfill emissions guidelines and issue a federal implementation plan within the required timeframes. The court orders EPA to approve or disapprove the 7 plans submitted by 5 states by Sept. 6, 2019; to promulgate the required federal plan by Nov. 6, 2019; and to submit status reports to the court every 90 days, the first of which is due Aug. 5, 2019. In the case, EPA acknowledged its failure to fulfill its obligations but argued that the states did not have standing to sue. The court disagreed, pointing to the “special solicitude” of states to invoke federal jurisdiction described by the Supreme Court in Mass. v. EPA. California, et al. v. EPA, No. 4:18-cv-03237 (N.D.Cal.).

August 22, 2019 The EPA proposes a federal plan to implement the 2016 emissions guidelines for existing municipal solid waste landfills where state or tribal plans are not in effect. Comment period is open until October 7, 2019.  Per court order, the EPA has until Nov. 6, 2019 to finalize this federal plan. 

August 26 2019 The EPA publishes a final rule revising the 2016 emissions guidelines for existing landfills. The rule changes the timing requirements to align with the updated Clean Air Act section 111(d) implementing regulations finalized in the Affordable Clean Energy rule on July 8, 2019. (see more about the ACE rule on our Clean Power Plan page) The new rule requires states to submit their plans within three years of the publication of emissions guidelines. EPA then must approve or disapprove the state plans within twelve months after they are determined to be complete. Under the old rule, states had nine months to submit plans, and the EPA had four months to respond.