Rules updating landfill-gas guidelines were finalized in August of 2016 to go into effect that October, but after Donald Trump’s election, his newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency leadership team delayed enacting the changes, and then pushed for a second delay for an additional four years – extending any implementation to six years after the initial deadline.
So, California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont joined together to sue Trump’s EPA.
“There is no substantive reason to further delay protections,” the Attorneys General said in their suit, filed in January.
The delays were “only the latest in a series of EPA’s efforts to do what it is not allowed to do: Stay the guidelines while it reconsiders them,” the states said. “EPA’s history of using improper procedural mechanisms to avoid implementing the guidelines raises serious concerns about the agency’s compliance with law, and the integrity of its rationale for this latest proposal.”
Indeed, government lawyers defending the foot-dragging didn’t dispute charges that EPA shirked its obligations, instead focusing on whether the states had legal standing to bring the case since, the government argued, there was no proof that the inaction harmed these states.
However, EPA scientists originally estimated that the new guidelines would annually reduce 285,000 metric tons per year of the powerful greenhouse gas methane plus 1,995 tons of smog-forming, non-methane organic compounds, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants.
“These emissions are the equivalent of more than 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year,” the states argued. “That is the annual equivalent of the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 1.5 million cars.
“Regulatory action is generally needed to address market failures,” the states continued. “As EPA acknowledges, ‘some sources may choose to wait until requirements are enacted prior to installing controls.’”
PDC’s expressed business philosophy states, “Our job is to dispose of waste, but our first priority is always to protect the health of our environment and neighbors. That is why we have adopted a conservative management policy: strict compliance with all environmental regulations.” However, Chris Coulter, PDC vice president, says the company tries to anticipate standards even when reforms haven’t been enacted.
The lawsuit, which prevailed this far, dismissed Trump’s EPA’s strategy.
“The function of the proposed delay is thus to enable EPA to avoid implementing the landfill emission guidelines … while it works to revise – and likely weaken – them,” the Attorneys General said.