California, Illinois, Maryland, and 5 other States File Suit against EPA over Failure to Implement Landfill Emission Regulations.
On May 31st, 2018 the states of California, Illinois, and Maryland, along with 5 other states, filed suit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plaintiffs allege that, in failing to enforce Obama-era regulations concerning emissions from landfills, EPA has violated the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). The rules in question are the “Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills” and the “2016 Standards of Performance for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills,” which were promulgated as a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and specifically designed to reduce methane emissions from solid waste landfills. Together, these rules “aim to control emissions of volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, carbon dioxide, and methane from municipal solid waste landfills (landfills).”
These rules took effect on October 28th, 2016 yet, instead of enforcing them, EPA communicated that “it has no intent to respond to state plans or to impose a federal plan on states that did not impose a state plan.” As a part of the mandates of the statute, states were required to submit implementation plans by May 30, 2017. Following this, EPA had four months to either approve or disapprove any state plans and six months to impose a federal plan on non-complying states. According to Plaintiffs’ complaint, the fact that EPA failed to meet either of these deadlines constitutes an actionable violation under CAA. As a result, Plaintiffs seek “a declaration that EPA’s actions and inactions have violated the Clean Air Act, and a mandatory injunction requiring EPA to immediately implement and enforce the Emission Guidelines.”
In August 2018, EPA filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ Clean Air Act citizen suit, that Plaintiffs’ remaining jurisdictional allegations similarly fail as a matter of law, and that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim to the extent they do not identify the States that should have submitted plans. Shortly after, the Environmental Defense Fund filed a motion to intervene as a plaintiff.
A hearing was held to discuss these two motions on October 25, 2018. During the hearing, EPA urged the court to wait until newly-proposed emission rules are finalized next year before deciding whether to dismiss the case. EPA argued that the new rules could potentially impact the suit and that any decision regarding its dismissal should be postponed until the new rules are put in place. Elizabeth Rumsey of the California Office of the Attorney General, however, disagreed with EPA’s logic, instead arguing that the proposed regulations could take years to finalize. Plaintiffs argue that Defendants are being unreasonably optimistic about the time it will take the agency to finalize the proposed rules and that the case should proceed in the meantime. In response, District Judge Haywood S Gilliam Jr advised EPA to file a motion to defer the ruling as soon as possible so as to allow both parties to brief the matter.
The environmental attorneys at Bick Law LLP will continue to monitor the progression of cases with the potential to impact environmental regulations across California and the entire United States.