UPDATE, Sept. 1: The EPA's 90-day stay for the New Source Performance Standards and Emissions Guidelines rules expired on Aug. 29. Details are scarce about what happens next. Industry sources remain in the dark and, if the EPA has further information, it isn't sharing.
"We have no updates at this time," wrote an agency spokesperson via email when asked where the process stood.
Depending on how the agency proceeds this could play out multiple ways. The rules could be allowed to stand as is, in which case state plans would now be late. The rules could be allowed to stay with deadlines extended by at least 90 days, in turn pushing back other deadlines set for later in the process. The EPA could also announce further intentions to try and repeal some or all of the rules.
Due to an ongoing legal challenge by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the EPA will eventually have to provide an update to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if nothing else. Following the initial motion in early August, both parties have filed multiple responses — the most recent from NRDC on Aug. 28 — and are now awaiting further direction from the court.
UPDATE, May 24: The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed a 90-day administrative stay on New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and Emissions Guidelines (EG) for municipal solid waste landfills in a May 23 announcement. The agency also released a May 5 letter it sent to Waste Management, Republic Services, NWRA and SWANA recognizing their October 2016 petition for reconsideration of the rules.
"EPA is continuing to ensure that the public has the opportunity to comment on agency actions," said Administrator Scott Pruitt in a statement. "Reconsidering portions of the landfill rules will give stakeholders the opportunity to review these requirements, assess economic impacts and provide feedback to the agency through the reconsideration process."
The EPA estimated that it would cost more than $100 million per year to implement the necessary changes required by these rules and has confirmed that compliance is not required during the 90-day stay.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to issue a 90-day administrative stay on two key Obama-era landfill rules, "Standards of Performance for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills" and "Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills." This was conveyed in a letter to the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and announced in a joint release from the two organizations.
- The EPA letter indicated it plans to reconsider the following topics as they relate to the two rules: tier 4 surface emission monitoring, annual liquids reporting, corrective action timeline procedures, overlapping applicability with other rules, the definition of cover penetration and design plan approval.
- This follows separate October 2016 petitions for judicial review and administrative reconsideration that were filed by NWRA, SWANA, Republic Services and Waste Management. Those petitions remain pending.
Finalized in summer 2016, the two rules were intended to update standards for municipal solid waste landfills built on or before July 17, 2014 and establish separate standards for newer sites. Methane reduction was a core focus of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy cited the rules among some of the administration's top achievements in a January exit memo that has since been removed from the agency's main website. The rule had called for affected states to submit compliance plans for the emissions guidelines rule by May 30, 2017.
As shown by the October 2016 petitions from the industry's leading companies and associations, these rules had led to some level of confusion and cost concerns among operators. The delay aligns with President Trump's desire to reevaluate recently enacted Obama-era regulations and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's agenda of mitigating any environmental requirements that are perceived as unduly burdensome on businesses. Pruitt's public record on industry issues has been limited until recently, but this letter indicates he is receptive to hearing their feedback.
Reducing the EPA's budget and scope has been cited as a priority of Trump's and Pruitt has expressed a desire to delegate more regulatory authority to state environmental agencies when possible. Though when it comes to setting new landfill emissions guidelines, some sort of federal standard is still seen by many in the industry as the most likely approach — even in light of the agency's new priorities. More details will be known once the EPA officially publishes this 90-day administrative stay in the Federal Register.