- On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order to roll back policies put in place under the Obama Administration that were designed to combat climate change. The order includes instructions to roll back the Clean Power Plan and review methane emission regulations for oil and gas utilities, among other directives.
- Shortly after this announcement, Kerry Kelly, senior director of federal affairs at Waste Management, explained how this executive order could affect the waste industry during a session at SWANApalooza in Reno, NV. Kelly noted that Trump called for the revision of the "social cost of carbon," a federal estimate which provides a default value for reductions in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.
- Kelly said that this specific rollback will change the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) cost-benefit analysis of various rulemakings, including the rule to change the regulatory threshold for non-methane organic compounds from 50 to 34 Mg annually. Many cost-benefit analyses of rules could come under reconsideration which Kelly said "might be helpful to us."
This order was discussed during a session titled "How Sweeping Changes to New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Impact Your Facility," in which Kelly and three other industry leaders explained the waste industry response to the final NSPS/Emission Guidelines (EG) updates for new, modified or reconstructed MSW landfills. While it is early still to know in detail why a change to current cost-benefit analyses could be "helpful," it is assumed any reconsideration could extend deadlines for compliance to the new rules. Currently, states have until May 30 to submit plans for implementation of EG updates.
Any alterations to the EPA's cost-benefit analysis of various rulemakings can also greatly impact how top companies like Waste Management are focusing on waste diversion. In Waste Management's most recent Sustainability Report, CEO Jim Fish writes, "When we reduce and recycle waste, we reduce the generation of GHGs and use of energy. We can track these physical benefits specifically, using well-accepted methodology developed by U.S. EPA. Throughout this report, we’re using life-cycle analysis to project the benefits for our waste reduction consulting services, recycling and renewable energy production." While Waste Management's new focus on GHG reduction goals instead of traditional weight-based diversion goals is becoming an industry trend, it is one that may end up being at odds with federal priorities.
Outside of climate change policies, Trump has signed a number of other executive orders during his first 10 weeks that have affected the waste industry, primarily in its relationship with the EPA. A few weeks ago, Trump announced a budget proposal that would cut EPA funding by 31%, affecting the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account, Office of Research and Development and various other departments that work directly with the industry. While some suggest it will be a long and hard process to fully dismantle the policies President Obama put in place to combat climate change, the process is in the works.