- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently filed a motion requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacate the Environmental Protection Agency's temporary stay on two Obama-era landfill methane rules. The EPA issued this stay on the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and Emissions Guidelines (EG) rules in May, citing the need for further consideration of issues raised by industry groups.
- The NRDC motion makes the argument that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's approval of the 90-day stay didn't meet requirements for reconsideration under the Clean Air Act. The filing also disputes the rationale that industry groups didn't have adequate time to comment on certain technical aspects of rules, which was cited as a key reason in their request for reconsideration.
- Rather than stay the rules indefinitely while working to potentially repeal them, the NRDC motion says the EPA is required to uphold them and initiate a new rulemaking process instead. Delaying implementation of these rules, according to the NRDC, will "diminish or negate the rules’ public health and climate-protection benefits" and "exacerbate the threats to...health and well-being."
The two rules in question, finalized in summer 2016, were designed to update standards for municipal solid waste landfills built on or before July 17, 2014, and establish separate standards for newer sites. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy cited them among some of the previous administration's top achievements in a January exit memo and methane reduction was a key part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan. Affected sites were originally required to submit compliance plans by May 30, 2017.
In October 2016, a petition was filed by Waste Management, Republic Services, the National Waste & Recycling Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America to challenge these rules. Citing the change of administration as a factor, this group re-filed its petition in January. In early May, the EPA sent a letter signed by Pruitt notifying this group of the temporary stay and telling them they would not be required to comply with the rules while it was in effect. After the stay became official, NRDC filed its petition in June with the Clean Air Council, Clean Wisconsin, and Conservation Law Foundation.
Under the direction of President Trump, Pruitt has been working to roll back many of the previous administration's environmental rules and requirements with a focus on lightening the regulatory burden for various industries. Yet similar attempts to delay rules on ozone standards and methane emissions from oil and gas drilling have been derailed by the D.C. Circuit Court. That may not stop the EPA from eventually succeeding in its goals through the rulemaking process, but it does mean the agency is required to uphold those rules in the meantime.
If the NRDC's latest motion is similarly successful then waste industry companies may be required to comply with the NSPS and EG rules after all. Though whether that period of required compliance will be temporary or indefinite remains to be seen.